Sunday, November 15, 2009

Movie Review: Pirate Radio

These days when you think of pirates, Johnny Depp is probably what comes to mind. In Pirate Radio you have Bill Nighy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Nick frost, probably not anything like you would have thought of in a million years. The year is 1966 and these pirates are not plundering and looting for treasure, they are pirating the airwaves. The Rock in Roll world is alive with The Kinks, The Who, The Hollys and lots of other groups that begin with the word "The". The British government won't allow this music on the regular radio so a rogue band of DJs organized by Quentin (Nighy) start broadcasting 24 hours a day from a ship off the coast of Britain that is outside of the jurisdiction of the government.

We follow Carl (Tom Sturridge) , a expelled high school teenager who is sent to the boat by his mother. He is introduced to the the eclectic, colorful band of DJs by his god father Quentin. Most of the DJs are British with the exception of The Count (Hoffman) who is from America. The only female on the boat is Felecity. She's the cook and a lesbian. To make up for the shortage of available women, they have Sexturdays where a supply boat brings over not only food and mail but women who stay for the weekend.

While the station hangs out on the North Sea, back in Parliament, they are trying to figure out a way to get these people off the air. They considered them immoral and reprobates among other things. This falls to Sir Alister Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) who in turn hires a gentleman by the name of Twatt (Jack Davenport) to actually come up with the details of how to do it. These two were wound very tight. Actually, they were wound so tight they could have doubled for the rubber bands on a balsa wood airplane.

The government tries different machinations to get them off the air waves while at the same time we watch and hear what is happening on the boat. Just how to you play table football on a boat that is rocking? While Carl is not a DJ, we see the various DJs working the microphone and turn tables. Some DJs with mouths constantly moving and some hardly saying anything at all. As they are on the air we hear a selection of music from the time. In turn we see how their listeners are reacting to the music. As some of life's events happen to the crew they in turn share it with their listeners. One of the editing decisions that I liked was they had several groups of listeners that they revisited with each of these events.

In the end, the government finally passes a law that will outlaw the pirates because one of the neat things about being the government is that if you don't like something you just pass a law to make it illegal according to Dormandy. Will the government be successful with their attempt, will the pirates being pirates find a way to keep going? You'll have to go see the movie to find out.

This movie for me was very enjoyable. Along the lines of 2003's Love Actually (another Bill Nighy film), this was very British from the clothing (broad vertical stripes) to the language (snogging) and the culture (Boxing Day). The ensemble cast and their interactions, the editing, the music pull together for a fast moving 138 minute movie. The editing of the audience actions and reactions gave the movie a great energy. These are rogue DJs in both action and language so the R rating is well deserved, but don't let this be a distraction for not going to see this movie.