Pirate RadioOverall Impression – A movie as slight as a one-hit wonder, but just as endearing.


Who’s your main character? – ‘Young’ Carl.

What’s he trying to accomplish? – Professional: Get his life together (at the insistence of his mother) by living on a pirate radio ship with a rowdy bunch of DJ’s.Personal: find out who his real father is.  Private: have a relationship with the father he’s been waiting his entire life for.

Who’s trying to stop him? – Ostensibly, Sir Alistair Dormandy, the government official charged with trying to shut down pirate radio.  Additionally, his mother who is vague about who his father really is.

What happens if he fails? – He will never know his father, and then when he does know who is father is, he and his father will actually die due to the government’s inaction when the ship starts to sink.


Orphan – Carl doesn’t have much of a relationship with his mother, and doesn’t know who his father is.

Wanderer – Carl tries to learn how to fit in aboard the pirate radio ship, slowly becoming familiar with its’ peculiar rhythms.

Warrior – Carl gets the idea put into his head that one of the DJs might be his father, so he sets out to figure out which one.

Martyr – There are multiple martyr beats running simultaneously.  Once the government announces that pirate radio is illegal, everyone decides to keep broadcasting and risk jail time.  Then, with the ship sinking and Carl now aware of who his father is, Carl risks his own life to save his father from drowning.


PIRATE RADIO’s plot is more a series of episodes rather than a full story.  It actually reminded me of M.A.S.H.; a group of quirky, completely entertaining characters live and love together in tight quarters, doing something noble.  In M.A.S.H., the characters are saving lives.  In PIRATE RADIO, they’re saving rock and roll.

The fun of this movie is definitely NOT the story, the thinness of which is merely a delivery vehicle for the joy of spending time with a group of colorful and funny, characters.  And don’t mistake ‘colorful and funny’ for ‘well-defined.’  We never know who anyone really is or how they got that way.  There’s nary a backstory to be found.  Instead, it’s like going to a great party and being immediately drawn in by the people there. By the end of the night you feel like you’re one of them, without really knowing who ‘them’ is.

The movie is a brilliant example of funny writing given to memorable characters.  You leave the theater not enlightened, but certainly entertained.  Who wouldn’t want to spend a few deranged hours with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, and Rhys Ifans as they spin tunes, bond, and make the world a better place one transistor radio at a time?

– Jeffrey Alan Schechter

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