In The Loop
Review by Jack Foley
FEW films based on television series make the transition from small screen to big as expertly as In The Loop. But Armando Iannucci’s bitingly brilliant political satire is a must-see experience whether you’re acquainted with its TV counterpart or not.
In The Loop stems from The Thick of It, the acclaimed sitcom that ruthlessly exposes the idiocy of certain aspects of parliamentary life, and which gave birth to Peter Capaldi’s wickedly foul-mouthed Scottish spin doctor Malcolm Tucker.
On the big screen, Capaldi’s volatile schemer delivers more bite than Spielberg’s Jaws and gleefully rips his way through anyone that dares to stand in his way. But he’s merely the icing on the cake of a movie that really will rate as one of the funniest you’re likely to see this year.
When incompetent minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) lands in trouble for making contradictory comments about the possibility of war in the Middle East, he suddenly finds himself sent to Washington on a fact-finding mission, during which he becomes both a pawn for America’s secret war committee and a poster-boy for a high-ranking general (James Gandolfini) and the Assistant Secretary for Diplomacy (Mimi Kennedy)‘s anti-war campaign.
His attempts to pacify both sides form the basis for the hilarity that ensues, as the Brits – led by the bullish Tucker (Capaldi) – attempt to diffuse the situation and save face, while the various American factions attempt to manipulate the gaffes for their own career-enhancing ends.
Iannucci’s film may put people off by the mere mention of the words ‘political satire’ but that would be doing it a huge dis-service. It’s consistently laugh-out loud funny, politically has its finger on the pulse, and is capable of appeal to anyone who takes even the slightest bit of interest in UK and international current affairs.
What’s more, it’s littered with brilliant performances and a vocabulary that promises to stretch and/or enhance anyone’s ability to insult or put down another human being.
Capaldi will undoubtedly get the majority of the plaudits for the force of nature that is Tucker (an Alastair Campbell clone if ever there was one), but high praise also deserves to go to Tom Hollander, as the dim-witted Foster, Chris Addison, as his hapless assistant, James Gandolfini, as a bullish general (and one of the few people capable of going toe to toe with Tucker) and David Roche, as yet another American schemer.
The twists and turns are cleverly concealed and expertly devised, while the innumerable references to real-life headlines are incredibly spot-on, making this as sharp and pertinent as it is crowd-pleasing and forgettable (if you so desire).
Iannucci, meanwhile, proves equally adept at handling the limitations of the big screen format as he does a 30-minute episode and ensures that each and every one of his characters gets the chance to breathe without feeling out of place in the cinematic context.
This is, in short, first-class British comedy that’s endlessly quotable, riotously funny, piercingly intelligent and very definitely one of the best films of the year.
Running time: 106mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: August 24, 2009
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Armando Iannucci interview
- Peter Capaldi interview
- Chris Addison interview
- Tom Hollander and Gina McKee interview
- In The Loop Photo Gallery