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Fred Listens to Pirate Radio

Published November 13, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of Universal Pictures
The Boat That Rocked Poster The Boat That Rocked
Pirate Radio is another great slice of life British dramedy, this time set against the backdrop of a fun bit of real history. I liked this version so much, I really want to see the longer The Boat That Rocked version. I guess on DVD.

Review: Pirate Radio


This movie is one big party. It’s all fast cut to music. The shaky cam is justified by the movement of the boat. There is some real choreography and shot composition for those fleeting little shots. It explains the history and keeps a rapid pace.

They’ve managed to visualize listening to the radio. The film shows it as a communal experience, stimulating gatherings, impacting the listeners. There are some really sensual images that get to you in only a few seconds of screen time. Even the kids fake guitaring in their bedrooms feels appropriate too.

The DJs have fun in their down time too, and the real movie is about the life moments these folks have while all the important historical stuff is going on. There’s the shy kid coming of age, a professional rivalry, some brutal betrayals in the close quarters of this space. It’s that painful dramedy that Working Title does so well, and it’s just a little more whimsical on this boat.



Historically, it does show that free artists still have to deal with reality. There are issues of broadcast standards and practical concerns. More so, they engage in shenanigans and bond.

The only questionable part is the smug, snooty suit trying to shut down the pirate stations. He’s so arch and so one dimensionally superficial, that had to be intentional. I mean, he even rolls his Rs. Not sure it’s a preferable alternative to the actual real life complexities of the situation, but the point here is the government just wants to stop everyone’s fun. I can’t really argue with the reality of that, only the cinematic aesthetic of it.
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Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of Universal Pictures
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