Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



Oscar Predictions

This is still a work in progress as I migrate from my old platform at Tumblr. For now, you can still access the whole backlog of posts there at

Pirate Radio

Film #173


A period comedy about an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960s.

Year 1, Day 171

BEFORE: In my continued quest to get ahead in the marathon for the planned Christmas break, it’s time for the second film today, Pirate Radio. Originally titled The Boat That Rocked, the version I will be watching today is the US release which is about twenty minutes shorter than the original UK release. It features some really great actors including Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, and marathon favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman (last seen in Doubt).

AFTER: Anyone who knows me will know that unless a song is from a film or TV show, instrumental or lyrical, chances are I haven’t heard it or don’t find it as entertaining as a song from a film or TV show. That is with the exception of rock and roll and more specifically rock and roll from the 1960s and 70s. Combine that with a fictionalized account of pirate radio in the UK and you have Pirate Radio.

I’ve learned many things through writing 172 reviews, one of which is that films can have different hooks to draw you in and entertain you. Sometimes it’s the story, sometimes it’s the cinematography and detailed set design. In the case of Pirate Radio the characters and the actors who played them were responsible for bringing the entertainment. Right from the first scene where Carl (Tom Sturridge) comes aboard Radio Rock, the pirate radio ship central to this film, and meets his godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy), I immediately connected with the characters and could see their personalities. From then on I was invested in these characters and the rest who came along most notably “The Count” (Philip Seymour Hoffman), “Doctor” Dave (Nick Frost), and Angus (Rhys Darby). Since I was so invested in the characters, other elements of the film became less important and I found myself forgiving minor annoyances.

Which brings me to: the story. For the first three-quarters of the film there isn’t much to complain about. Not a lot happens but this film is more about setting a mood and showing what the late 1960s were like in the United Kingdom and you lose yourself in this time. Until the last twenty minutes or so when the government passes the law that prohibits pirate radio stations from broadcasting. Nothing wrong there: it’s an inevitable and expected event in the story. My complaint is with what happens next: Radio Rock begins to sink in a fashion that is very similar to the sinking of the RMS Titanic, a comparison even stated in the film itself. Not only do you have shots of records falling off the shelves mirroring shots of plates and china falling of shelves from James Cameron’s film, but guess what, the life boats on Radio Rock are also conveniently unusable/nonexistent. After doing such a great job creating such wonderful characters and bringing us back to the heyday of rock and roll, couldn’t the filmmakers come up with a better ending? The only good thing about it was it didn’t last long.

Don’t let my rant about the ending discourage you from seeing this film. The characters and the time of rock and roll really drive this film to great heights. While quite different in terms of content and style, Pirate Radio would make a great supplement to another 1960s rock and roll film from this marathon, Not Fade Away.

RATING: 4 out of 5