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Pirate Radio

November 15, 2009

I was originally flippant about seeing Pirate Radio (or The Boat That Rocked), even going as far to say I was pretty sure it would suck. The story of a renegade American DJ leading a rag tag British radio station in playing banned music just didn’t tickle my fancy. Therefore my surprise came at just how great this movie was. The Americanized trailer doesn’t do the film justice as it’s instead about a period in 1966 when British government attempted to rid air waves of the immoral rock and roll. Thus leaving a group of DJs who live aboard the ship Radio Rock to be the sole bearers of bringing rock and soul music into the homes of kids forced to listen to their radios under pillows at night, groups of teens sharing cigarettes and joints in a basement room, and workers on break all intensely engaged with the comedic antics and music from Radio Rock.

Still there’s more to the film than just the cat-and-mouse chase between the pirates and the stern BBC members devoted to bringing them down. The main story revolves around the arrival of Carl (Tom Sturridge) the godson of the ship’s Captain Quentin (Bill Nighy not this guy). With character alignment through mostly Carl’s eyes, we learn of the crew’s passion for music, individual personalities, and experience the make ups and break ups. What makes this film as good as it is aside from the fantastic performances (especially from Nighy, Phillip Seymor Hoffman, and Kenneth Branagh) is the ensemble cast’s interaction with one another. It’s like watching Empire Records except instead of the angsty 90s grudge its classier Brits and their funny words like “fortnight” and “bullocks” living up the 1960s ideology of drugs, sex, and rock and roll.


Although the costume design and music are also great, Pirate Radio is far from perfect. There are plot holes, little to no character development, cheesy moments, and offensive overall that the only black character on board barely says more than two sentences. Yet for some reason the film works, it’s just purely and simply entertaining and funny with some nice touching moments and enough great tracks to keep your feet tapping. Pirate Radio… or The Boat That Rocked is not the best film of the year but it’s a damn good one and makes for a great movie going experience that makes me long for the good old days. As Abbie Hoffman once said, “The 60s are gone. Dope will never be as cheap, sex never as free, and the rock and roll never as great”… what sad times we live in now.

SEE IT.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2009 8:21 PM

    >hey, saw your link on IMDB and thought i'd pop in. cool review, better than a lot of others i've read (which brings to mind the overlarge number of them that i have actually read… wow). you had a good point about the film's problems- i too had to cock an eyebrow at the almost-nameless black guy who got less lines than the weatherman. but the faults were v. forgivable, it was so much fun!

  2. November 17, 2009 8:23 PM

    >also, you're the only one so far to even MENTION the black guy, so kudos to you.

  3. November 19, 2009 6:17 AM

    >Thanks for the words, I appreciate it! I'm glad I wasn't the only who was perturbed by that. lol

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