- Released Internationally on 01/04/09
- Released in Malta by KRS on 15/04/09
In a nutshell
In the latter half of the 60s, the conservative and all-powerful BBC was in control of what the UK public got to watch and listen to. Rock and pop music were only allowed a few tiny slots per week, despite their growing fan base. Enter ‘Radio Rock’, the 24-hour pirate radio station which from a ship in international waters used to reach over 24 million UK listeners and give them what they craved – non-stop hit music. The government wasn’t too pleased however, and the ensuing battle to close the station down has been hailed as the start of the opening-up of the airwaves.
Who’s in it?
We arrive aboard Radio Rock in the company of the young Carl (relative newcomer Tom Sturridge) who is going through a rough patch and has been sent aboard to spend some quality time with his godfather, and captain of the ship, Quentin (the wonderful Bill Nighy, of Love Actually and Notes on a Scandal fame, in yet another show-stealing role full of languor and dry humour). Carl soon meets everyone else on board, including the infamous deejays the whole nation is tuning-in to, and their minimal crew. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt, Capote) is The Count, a rock guru brought over from across the Atlantic. Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) is Dr. Dave, who doesn’t let his obesity interfere with his sex-symbol status. And in a much-hyped return after his brief career abroad, the station is proud to have back their silken-voiced rock god Gavin, played with much gusto by Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, Enduring Love). On the other end of the spectrum, Kenneth Branagh (Valkyrie, Henry V) is the minister who dreams of sinking the ship, with the help of his assistant, Twatt (Jack Davenport from Pirates of the Caribbean and The Talented Mr. Ripley). The supporting cast is just as hilarious, with each member of this energetic crew bringing his own unique touch to the radio’s growing audience.
Despite the impressive ensemble cast, the film promotional material only ever had to have one name plastered all over it – Richard Curtis. The highly revered British writer-turned-director has given us some of the best laughs and romances of the past 25 years. Blackadder, Mr. Bean, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones and the seminal Love Actually were all the fruit of his pen, whilst he also produced a number of them, and directed Love Actually. His very British sense of fun, warmth and humour is once again all over this film, though maybe not up to his highest standards.
Music to our ears
As can be expected from a film about a 60s radio station, the soundtrack takes centre stage and helps give the film an extra dose of energy, colour and nostalgia. From Procul Harum to David Bowie and from Cat Stevens to The Who, everyone should find at least a handful of songs they love peppered through the film, with a number of key sequences being built around the music the radio happens to be playing, to great effect. (The Beatles are notable by their absence, which probably suggests licensing issues). A classic piece of Morricone spaghetti-western score from the same era is used brilliantly in a key action sequence, and one of the film’s emotional highpoints is made all the more solemn by the use of Elgar’s Nimrod (from the Enigma Variations), which works like a charm but is becoming a bit overused, with recent prominence in Elizabeth and Australia.
Only a few leaks
Despite being a joy from start to finish, and a fun slice of retro Britannia, the film falls slightly short of Curtis’ previous efforts. Its main flaws are forgivable though – despite being long, it’s still fun throughout, and with regards to historical accuracy, Curtis himself has stated he just wanted to make a piece of entertainment, not a precise documentary. Still, despite its blemishes, the film is as infectious and fun as the music it so proudly pays tribute to, and during the many montages of UK listeners tuning in and twisting to their favourite hits, it’s hard not to wish you were there.
http://188.8.131.52/media/Trailers/boatthatrocked/btr_trl_large.mov (High-res Quicktime)