I have known this film was coming for a long while. I sat through the agony of Jonathan Ross just to hear Rhys Ifans (who all sensible people love and adore) talk about it; but somehow, unaccountably, I managed to miss it in the cinemas. After much mea culpa I decided, sensibly, that I would not settle for a sub-optimal experience of some nut with a cam-corder in a film theatre-- which meant I was rather thrilled when it turned out it was finally available on dvd.
Duly purchased I bullied Tor into seeing it tonight. Well, I say bullied. What I really did was sayLook! It's Bill Nighy! Bill Nighy being beyond cool. With Rhys Ifans. And about 15 other brilliantly brilliant people. And look! Bill Nighy! In a blue suit! And sunglasses! Running a pirate radio ship!
and that pretty much did the trick. Tor has good taste, and so was easily convinced. Bill Nighy is of course the life and soul of any film, or series, he is in; and this is no exception. You know what I mean. I don't have to fail at describing what makes him Great. He looks stern, then he does that secret smiling-thing, then he twitches a little and [insert illustrative hand gesture that starts abruptly and then moves fluidly to the right (both hands)] flows
away. And he dances. And he wears a captain's hat at one point.
The story itself is not historically accurate per se. Nor entirely ideologically unproblematic for someone who is rather more a fan of public radio than advertisement-based commercial channels (e.g. me) -- but I don't care. There is so much colour
and good music
. Oh, the music. I want to use every superlative I can dig up, and they will all be positive. Even bad
is good. Oh, so good. It is what I want the late 60s to have been, history be damned.
And while Bill Nighy could (I am sure) have carried a film of this sort all alone (we know I'm right), he is surrounded by name after name of British Wonders (and one American). Kenneth Branagh is a quite wonderfully evil bureaucrat, aided and abetted by the aptly (?) named Twatt (played by Jack Davenport). They set out to kill the pirate radio stations that are corrupting the youth of Britain (what with the filthy language and rock and roll).
On board the ship (Radio Rock), we find (amongst others) Chris O'Dowd (whose Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel
I have every intention of seeing as soon as possible) as the breakfast DJ (an interesting concept in itself) `Simple' Simon, Nick Frost (who played with Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead
and Hot Fuzz
and pretty much everything else) as Dr Dave (also a DJ -- they all are) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (who Tor has finally learnt is not
the same person as Stellan Skarsgård) as The Count (the American). And after the beautiful moment when Rhys Ifans, as the gloriously dressed and spectacularly cool (almost rivalling Bill Nighy, which is rather disturbing) Gavin, returned to Britain after (as Nighy's character describes it) having been lost to
America, ambition and alcoholic poisoning,
alights from the ladder to resume his place as God of DJs, there is a bit of a confrontation of egos between Hoffman and Ifans' characters, a scuffle (I might add) which is satisfactorily and wonderfully resolved in quite an impressive feat of daring and manliness (of varying degrees -- did I mention Ifans has style
?). And then. Like a whiff of summerly flowers (and I do not by that mean to imply that the rest is dreary at all), a short visit from an Emma Thompson who (I believe) never removed her sunglasses, and was (as usual, quite wonderfully delightful). And did I mention how utterly bloody brilliant Bill Nighy is (even when just (to all appearances) standing perfectly still)?
There is plot I could go into, but you should just see the film instead. The music, the colours, the clothes
and the characters -- if you do not like it, I feel it is fair to say, you have no heart. It rocks.