IN THE LOOP
The US President and UK Prime Minister fancy a war. But not everyone agrees that war is a good thing. US Lt. General George Miller (James Gandolfini) doesn't think so and neither does the British Minister for International Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander). But, after Simon inadvertently backs military action on TV, he acquires a lot of friends in Washington, DC. If Simon can get in with the right DC people, if his assistant Toby (Chris Addison) can sleep with the right intern, Liza Weld (Anna Chlumsky), and if they can both stop the Prime Minister's chief spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) rigging the vote at the UN, they can halt the war. If they don't... well, they can always sack their Director of Communications Judy Molloy (Gina McKee), who they never liked anyway and who's back home dealing with Foster's constituents with blocked drains and a man (Steve Coogan) who's angry about a collapsing wall.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The underlying subject matter is as serious as it gets: war. But when the British put aside their usual understatement and bring out their satirical bazooka, they can make quite a big bang. In The Loop is a descendant of the much loved TV satire The Thick of It (series plus 2-hour specials) by the same Armando Iannucci, who combines carefully prepared scripting with improv - if the material is better. In the film, it's an expanded world, the stakes are higher. The result is a hyperactive career destruction derby with a war plan. It's a parallel world, so the war is an untitled war, but the story elements seem familiar ... The film imagines a scenario where apparatchiks doctor intelligence reports to back their case for war. Given what's coming out of investigations into the secret pre-Iraq war backroom goings on [BBC Radio, 10/11/2009] it seems a clear case of art imitating life ... on purpose and to make a point.
In the Loop reminds me of English writer and humourist Stephen Fry's eloquent contribution to the understanding of comedy. He says the whole point of comedy, its saving grace, is that we can simultaneously laugh at something while still taking it seriously. That's why Jewish humour and black humour and indeed satire, work so well.
In the parallel and foulmouthed world of In The Loop, Ministers - even senior ones like British Minister for Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) - are required to toe the Government line, at the risk of being verbally eviscerated by chief spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi). How this is done, and how other fiery interactions are played out in Washington and Whitehall are the excesses of the screenplay that make up the primal dung of its comic force.
Capaldi played Tucker in the TV series, but here, he has to maintain an exceptional level of vitriol and abuse for longer and do so without turning Tucker into a caricature that is out of balance with the rest of the film. Hollander gives us a bumbling Minister in freefall with a twist and pike, as they say in diving, while Gina McKee sparkles as the communications empress in full control.
It's a hectic pace and the physicality of many scenes gives it dynamic impetus, while the characters - like Mimi Kennedy's American Senator Karen Clark - are fascinating and recognisable as tangibly human: flawed, complex, conflicted and struggling to cope. It's a bang up movie with ample swearing, lots of embarrassment and wicked humour.
Review by Louise Keller:
Seeded from the UK TV series The Thick of It, this is a blistering and often funny political satire whose dialogue ejaculates like sperm on heat. It's set in the inner sanctum of politicians and their aides who are in a frenetic debate about the pros and cons of going to war. The pace is relentless, the language foul and there are some genuinely inventive and hilarious ideas that are exchanged, although the film feels a bit like a wild horse that gallops out of control. I would like to have seen a little more light and shade which might have punctuated matters more decisively.
It all begins when Toby (Chris Addison) starts his new role as Aide to Simon (Tom Hollander), the Minister of International Development who has just jammed his foot in his mouth with gaffes to the media like "We have to climb the mountain of conflict". His boss Malcolm (Peter Capaldi), a foul-mouthed Scottish alpha male, who is the Director of Communications, is not amused. Dialogue spools out with lines like "You sound like a Nazi Julie Andrews"; Unforseeable, that's what you are - in the words of Nat King Cole; Let them eat cock; I've had muggings that lasted longer than that (of a meeting)". The humour comes from the context and juxtaposition of inappropriate situations. Like the scene when James Gandolfini's Lt General George Miller and Mimi Kennedy's Assistant Secretary of State are talking about war policies in a child's bedroom, amid the snap, crackle and pop of a plastic calculator they use to add the potential number of troops to be deployed.
The action flits between London and Washington and between high level meetings in the Foreign Office, the US State Department and the UN Headquarters, where we are privy to local departmental business, an adulterous international affair resulting in a domestic dispute and serious media leaks. The thrust is savage and smart, although the final impact is lessened by writers Jesse Armstrong and Simon Blackwell' uncensored onslaught on which director Armando Iannucci is not always able to keep a handle.
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IN THE LOOP (MA)
CAST: Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, James Gandolfini, Gina McKee, Chris Addison, Anna Chlumsky, Zach Woods, Steve Coogan, Olivia Poulet, Mimi Kennedy, David Rasche
PRODUCER: Kevin Loader, Adam Tandy
DIRECTOR: Armando Iannucci
SCRIPT: Jess Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jamie Cairney
EDITOR: Anthony Boys, Billy Sneddon
MUSIC: Adam Ilhan
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Christina Casali
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 21, 2010