The Boat That Rocked, which was renamed “Pirate Radio” in America for some strange reason, is a fictional story about real life Pirate Radio stations that anchored in international waters transmitting the so-called morally decayed Pop and Rock music. Nowadays it’s hard to imagine the radio only transmitting music that has been found appropriate by the government but then again: 20 years ago it was unheard of for commercial television to operate in the Netherlands, they had to use a loophole transmitting from Luxembourg. And even nowadays censorship is still there: In Italy Berlusconi controls the media because he owns the media, and in America uncensored TV is only on pay-per-view. And if you happen to flash a boob on national television you can expect a big fine and a shocked nation.
The movie tells two stories: that of Radio Rock, the life on board and a kid who gets to spend the summer there after his mother sent him there. The other is about a government official who has the task to shut the Pirate Radio stations down and loves this job. These two worlds have their own color scheme. On board everywhere there’s a warm color scheme, while all the government officials walk around in tight suits, combed hair in their grey and sterile offices.
We are seeing this sea-life through the eyes of Carl (Tom Sturridge), a virginal young boy, who comes into a life of smoking, drugs and rock & roll on a boat full of people who could all be his dad, which is a subplot in the movie actually.
The movie actually lacks a storyline. It’s more a series of vignettes as stuff happens but don’t really add to a storyline. Other than Carl’s search for his father and him somewhat growing over the course of the movie I found the movie to be somewhat dull, despite some captivating actors being on board. Bill Nighy stealing once again the show as the head of the radio station, a take on his character from Love Actually. There are some fun sequences and female eyecandy in the movie but so many scenes have no real purpose and make the running time of two hours a stretch. It could have left out 30 minutes with ease.
The movie breathes the sixties and is a nice document of that era, aided with some stellar performances but the lack of an actual story make it a bit of an overlong series of sketches.