It’s a dangerous business, recommending movies, and The Boat That Rocked AKA Pirate Radio is the perfect example for that. You will either feel its vibe or you will just find it very boring. With a running time of over two hours, the boat rocks for so long that you might want it to stop rocking. With an ensemble cast and a juicy subject, this is a movie that should’ve rocked for everyone who saw it. Unfortunately, the main storyline is pretty muddied, leaving some of the viewers confused. However, if you consider yourself a rocker, punker, metalhead, or any other kind of an outcast, Pirate Radio could be a great movie. If for nothing else, then for the historical perspective. If people want to listen to something, you can’t stop them.
First of all, you should know that The Boat That Rocked is only inspired by a real DJ of the sixties. So, most of the events you’re about to see here did not happen. Secondly, the director of this movie is none other than Richard Curtis, the same guy responsible for such characters as Mr. Bean or Black Adder! This means you can expect that type of humor with a bunch of eccentric characters. And they will be played by great actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, and Nick Frost. The thing that’s missing here is a satisfying main narrative that apart from some intriguing motives feels unfinished.
It is the year of our lord Satan 1966 and rock is deemed as the devils’ music all over the world. The situation is the same in England where DJs and radio stations are operating from large boats anchored in international waters. They become a place of hedonism, debauchery, and rebellion against the system. Meet seventeen-year-old Carl, just expelled from school and on his way to one of those boats. His life is about to drastically change.
So, as you can gather from the summary, this is a movie for all of us who are feeling nostalgic. Nostalgic for the power that radio once had or that period of the last century. Or if you’re feeling just a little bit rebellious, let’s just say British rebellious. Mostly because despite getting an R rating, The Boat That Rocked doesn’t feature this hedonistic spirit in all its glory. It feels sanitized for general use, losing almost all of its potency. For fuck’s sake, these were the sixties! Where’s all the sex, drugs, and fucking rock and roll? Plus, these are international waters we’re talking about. Granted, there’s a bit of nudity and sex here but just a little bit.
Finally, if you’re looking to continue in the same direction check out Airheads, The Vast of the Night, and Pontypool. In all these movies radio stations play a large part in the story although they are all completely different. The first one is a comedy, the second a science fiction movie and we finally have a zombie horror-comedy. Enjoy.
Director: Richard Curtis
Writer: Richard Curtis
Cast: Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Chris O’Dowd, Katherine Parkinson, Jack Davenport
Fun Facts: The scene with Midnight Mark and all of his naked groupies (cut from the U.S. release) is an homage to the U.K. album cover of Jimi Hendrix’s album “Electric Ladyland”, even down to the placement of the girls.