Back in the 60's, rock 'n roll blasted into the mainstream. A new generation was being formed based off of this new type of music, a music deemed unruly by the establishment. While this generation was carving lasting memories with the music, the old generation was trying stop it.
Based off of the amazing true story, Pirate Radio follows a ragtag group of disc jockeys who anchor their boat off the coast of Britain and broadcast rock music 24 hours a day over the airwaves. Since they are not in the country, they technically aren't breaking any laws, but the British government is still determined to find a loophole in the rules and bring them down.
Yes, Pirate Radio (known over in England as The Boat That Rocked) is a true story and it's a remarkable one at that. This wonderful tale is one that needs to be told and this is a good telling of it. Nevertheless, I feel like it doesn't lend itself well to a traditional narrative because not every piece seems to fit in the right place. It is a good movie, but the story is muddled and its relevance, outside of its obvious historical significance, is nebulous.
What is it trying to do? Is it trying to show the power of rock 'n roll? Is it an anti-establishment film? Or is it simply a feel good movie? I say it's the latter. Rock is a great genre of music, which is a true statement if I've ever heard one, but that meaning is the only one conveyed in the picture. Outside of its desire to hold the rock genre up on a pedestal, Pirate Radio does very little.
Though not bereft of a number of headaches, the biggest problem in Pirate Radio is that you never feel like a real conflict is brewing. Even the main fight between the DJ's and the British government feels almost non-existent. Seeing as how the DJ's are always on that boat, the feuding groups have no scenes together and you never see them at odds. It merely jumps back and forth from scenes on the boat to scenes on land and no real conflict is ever established. It didn't feel like the men on the boat were playing the music to fight "the man" and show them that they won't abide by their limey laws. It felt like they were playing it simply because they could.
Then there are the conflicts that arise between the men on the boat, most of which are unwisely played for laughs when real emotion could have been drawn from them. Midway through the film, one of the DJ's gets married (did I mention women are only allowed on the boat if they are wed to one of the men?), but it is quickly found out that she only wed this man to get closer to another DJ who doesn't believe in the sanctity of marriage. You can see his heart breaking onscreen, but instead of pulling something from that, the film plays it for laughs and the conflict is resolved rather quickly. No connection is ever made between the characters and the audience.
All I've really done is criticize Pirate Radio, but make no mistake, this is a feel good movie and you will find yourself gushing at the events that take place. The men on the boat are fun, reckless and a blast to watch. It has a few eye rolling moments, like a scene late in the movie that is the equivalent to those tired war movie scenes where a platoon of soldiers step forward and voluntarily prepare for battle despite the odds against them, but Pirate Radio is still a good watch.
Pirate Radio receives 3/5