Queen Rock Montreal (2024)

Queen Rock Montreal Review

Queen Rock Montreal

A pleasing movie brings delight. An astonishing movie brings awe. A flawless movie brings recognition. Then there’s the occasional movie where you sit in your seat as the credits roll and think you might have seen the best film ever made. Before I saw Queen Rock Montreal, a remastered and re-edited version of Queen’s 1981 performance at the Montreal Forum, the only thing that had ever held that title was Bong Joon-ho’s 2019 masterpiece Parasite. But now it goes to two films.

To artists now concert films are just an easy way to get more money by literally filming their performance. For all its box office success, the Taylor Swift Eras Tour movie was nothing more than a recording of a stadium concert. It existed as a sing-along and a light show, not a great work of art. A24’s re-release of the Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense this past fall reminded us of the artistry, planning and beauty that can go into a concert film. Now, early into 2024, Queen took a film they hated and turned it into something they and we can be proud of.

Inside the Montreal Forum, Queen’s stage setup looks almost like a spaceship on the big screen. Roger Taylor’s drums are perched atop what appears to be half a staircase covered in lights. Smoke machines are hidden all over the stage; lights above it move and change colors like they’re signaling that it’s coming in for landing somewhere far away from Earth. Together these elements create an entirely cinematic effect when captured by Swimmer in his footage for this film. The smoky stage becoming an almost alien supernatural entity preparing for Queen is just an opening act to what’s coming next though no one is ready for them.

Freddie Mercury arrives on stage larger than life itself his legendary presence transcends live form and moves right through camera into theater audience where I sat watching. Seeing the late legend run around stage, sing with his famous vocal range and peel off layers as the show goes on is one of purest experiences in any movie this century. Nothing else can compare. You can’t take your eyes off him. That’s partially because of the immense camerawork by Swimmer and crew.

Like Stop Making Sense, it makes concert feel alive with camera work. There’s no sense that shots are pre-programmed or fully planned out; men move around stage throughout performance to capture Mercury, May, Taylor and Deacon in full glory. And while Freddie held audience captive, May got arguably most cinematic shots in entire film. As smoke descended on stage and lighting rig changed colors and oscillated, legendary guitarist appeared as dark figure in colorful smoke serenely shredding away

The restoration and remastering of this film is unbelievable. The best work of a 1980s movie I have ever seen was achieved by IMAX and the people behind the project with the original 35mm film. Such an update should be difficult given the complex lighting setup, multiple angles and smoke that created a noisy image. But on screen, the footage looks like it could have been filmed yesterday. The whole band is crystal clear with no grain throughout the film, save for one moment where there are some small white crackles on the blackness behind Mercury in a closeup. That being the only “flaw” seen throughout the film is a minor miracle.

Where IMAX worked their magic was the sound mix. No other film has produced a sound mix like this one. Not only was it impossibly clear, but tonally finely tuned to where I got chills. Mercury’s vocals suck you in, Taylor’s drums shake your seat and May’s guitar will give you chills. During the back third of the show, Brian May gives a solo that sent shivers down my spine as well as others’. The stage is smokey with lights red glaring as he unleashes a solo with heavy notes of “Brighton Rock.” That is where artistically peaks.

All these things put together make it one of if not thee greatest moviegoing experiences of this century thus far. My eyes never left the screen during that time and I don’t think my body moved either- which seems wrong but makes sense when you see it yourself because after five minutes my head left my body as my brain became subsumed by what I was seeing on screen to not move them between songs so they did not fall asleep from me not moving them if that makes any sense at all? It shut off parts of itself so i could soak up more. I had to remember to move my hands & feet between songs so they did not fall asleep from me not moving them. That is the power of this film.

Yet somehow the marketing for this film is its biggest flaw. Two days into a four day run and I had no clue this film was even coming out until today. Multiple people exited the theater commenting that they didn’t even know about this before seeing the show. The answer to who’s at fault here is easy: Queen themselves. They were heavily involved with the re-distribution of the film, not a studio. There was no major or indie studio attached to promote the film either. Infact only promotion came only through Queen’s own social media channels.

Last year, The Abyss one day re-release had a better marketing campaign than this film. James Cameron tweeted about it, trailer made rounds on social media & YouTube etc.. It made it well-beyond the confines of just the studio. Makes you wonder what even a small distributor like A24 or Roadside Attractions could have even done with this film to draw more people in.

While those who saw it will know: Queen Rock Montreal is an all-time concert film and theater experience, it won’t reach many more people during its four-day run.

Watch Queen Rock Montreal For Free On Gomovies.

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