Just like listening to your favorite rock record, the film “Pirate Radio” is an enjoyable ride through the human soul. Written and directed by Richard Curtis (“Love Actually”), the movie is a comedic exploration of the 1960s rock ‘n’ roll culture.
Set in 1966 England and the cold waters of the North Atlantic, the plot follows renegade DJs who defy a law banning rock music in the United Kingdom by broadcasting from an aging ship. Of course, the government engages in a cat-and-mouse game in trying to shut the DJs down.
It is a typical plot that serves only to drive the characters onward. While predictable, Curtis saves the audience from boredom with a well-written script and a cast of lovable characters. Each of the DJs that serve on the ship represent a facet of rock ‘n’ roll, ranging from the free-loving hippie to the more aggressive American rock jock.
To say that there is a central character would be a mistake, but like Curtis’s other films, each character has an equally important role in the story. The Count (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is a tough-talking American DJ, who serves to symbolize the evolution of the American bad-boy rock ‘n‘ roll persona. Hoffman is enjoyable to watch, perfectly portraying the careless attitude of his character.
Another interesting character is Quentin (Bill Nighy), who is the aging leader of the group and a smooth talking British rocker. Hoffman and Nighy are great to watch together on screen, each perfectly balancing the comedy to not outshine the other. An example of this is found in one scene where Nighy urges Hoffman not to say the f-word live on air. The scene is long, but the lines exchanged between the two are so entertaining that it can be forgiven that the confrontation almost approaches the seven-minute mark.
Then there are your villains. Both Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) and Twatt (Jack Davenport) fill the role of stuck-up government officials who attempt to take the DJs down. Their strict personalities provide an excellent backdrop for comedy. To put it simply, they represent the typical “square” stereotype, so often attributed to the government during the 1960s.
They complete a cast with such great chemistry that it’s hard to believe they haven’t been working together for years. Tying them all together is Curtis’s humorous script, which is careful to not rely heavily on slap-stick or toilet jokes. Instead, Curtis uses witty dialogue and a few low blows to craft excellent characters and even funnier situations.
Another character worth mentioning is the soundtrack. Ranging from the Beatles to The Rolling Stones, the movie is not afraid to pay homage to the gems found in rock ‘n’ roll deep history. Furthermore, it is used brilliantly in some scenes that are simply used to show how much the British population adores their rock music.
“Pirate Radio” is an excellent film for anyone wondering about the power of music and its ability to uplift and motivate the human spirit.