The Rocket Post

The Rocket Post


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Rocket Post was supposed to blast into cinemas years ago. The shoot ended in 2001 and in the intervening years its director Stephen Whittaker passed away and its producer Mark Shorrock has given up film-making completely.

So, after possibly the slowest burning fuse in cinematic history, it finally hits screens this month. Of course the big question now is, was it all worth waiting for?

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The answer, as so often, is yes and no. Certainly this fact-based tale about German Gerhard Zucher’s attempt to send mail between the Western Isles by rocket on the brink of the Second World War is a good story. And Zucher – played by Danish actor Ulrich Thomsen who starred in the genre-bending Allegro earlier this year – is a sympathetic character.

Heading to Scarp with his less charming sidekick Heinz (Eddie Marsan) to realise his rocket dream, he encounters hostility followed by gradual acceptance from the islanders - in particular, Catriona Mackay (Shauna Macdonald). She is a girl with dreams of her own and begins to fall for the exotic newcomer. Naturally, however, this is a tale of star-crossed lovers with the spectre of conflict looming ever more large.

Tarnasay (doubling as Scarp here) has never looked so lovely, with the camera lapping up the landscape. The acting, too, is never less than convincing, with the main players and supporting cast (Kevin McKidd in a rare sympathetic role as the island’s doctor and Clive Russell as Catriona's gruff uncle) all excellent.

Yet this gentle tale of love in the face of the threat of war could do with a bit of rocket propulsion itself. Gentle, here, equates to slow, with far too many scenes of Catriona running across the landscape and Zucher looking tortured. The islanders have more than a whiff of eau du Scots cliché about them, too - they don’t like incomers, have ‘crazy’ yet endearing eccentricities and are whisky drinkers to a man (if the casting is to be believed there are virtually no women save Catriona on the island). Plus, all is accompanied by an overweening soundtrack which puts you in mind of a visitscotland advert.

What emerges is a film that never quite manages to lift itself above the category of a decent BBC drama – right down to the ‘token American’. In fact it might have been better served by a televisual outing rather than a cinematic one.

Reviewed on: 09 Nov 2006
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Rocket scientist finds love on remote Scots isle.
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Director: Stephen Whittaker

Writer: James MacInnes, William Morrissey

Starring: Shauna Macdonald, Ulrich Thomsen, Jimmy Roach, Kevin McKidd, Eddie Marsan, Clive Russell, Patrick Malahide, Tim Barlow, Malcolm Storry, Roderic Culver

Year: 2006

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK


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