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Is it a work of fictional farce or an insightful view of the members of
the governmental bureaucracy? Probably in truth, In The Loop is a
little bit of both, but more so its a whole lot of fun at the
governments expense. There have been numerous films over the years
giving us insight into how our government works, at times it sure looks
bleak and unjust, but we sure haven't seen it in such a ridiculous
view. In The Loop aims at making sure they scrutinize the bureaucratic
desk jocks for all their worth. The film follows the Minister of
International Development (Tom Hollander) after he has put his foot in
his mouth, unintentionally announcing that war is unforeseeable. Back
tracking and word-smith manipulations prove mute, fortunately for the
Minister he's got big fans in the US who would like nothing more then
to use the naive Brit in their political posturing. The hawks begin
circling and before the Minister knows what game he's playing he's into
deep and merely a puppet in the political theater.
There is a hint of a serious political thriller in the plot here, but In The Loop knows we've seen all that before so why not have a little fun, actually why not have a whole lot of fun and throw in lots of scalding four letter words and absolute British wit. Tom Hollander as the Minister of I.D. is dumb-foundingly perfect in his role and is well complemented by his bungling assistant Oliver (played exceptionally by Chris Addison). As the Director of Communications, Peter Capaldi steals the show with his relentlessly scathing superhuman vulgarity ridden wit. Those with a distaste for such colorful language should look elsewhere as their ears will certainly be on fire if they can last through a third of the film. Personally the language was not a problem for me, I appreciate a master of the finer words, and Capaldi has shown himself to deliver his lines with such craftsmanship that sailors around the world will be put to shame.
The Brits are a fantastic mess, but of course what international mess would be complete without the United States Govt.. And so comes the behemoth know as James Gandolifini, the Don Capo hasn't lost any of his on-screen presence. As the ol' war vet Pentagon General, Gandolfini is gruff and verbally abusive in a really mean spirited way, which is glorious. Those with a keen sense of cinema will notice how well the film shifts humor as the Brits come across the pond to the the dry humor of America. Gandolfini makes the most of his screen time, but on the American side the majority of the ridiculousness comes from Mimi Kennedy, as the Assistant Secretary of Diplomacy and her bickering 20 something Capital Hill brown nosing assistants. Director Armando Ianucci's delivers such a cynical sharp witted look at all things politically ridiculous and it works on so many levels. Fans of British humor will love this, its pureness to the form is perfectly meshed into the political platform that moves the comedy along with merely a few small bumps in the road. On the other side of the coin, those who enjoy making fun of those of the diplomatic persuasion will delight in the roasting of our governmental members.
One of the best political satirical comedies in years! 'In The Loop' is
a spin-off (kind-of) of the fantastic British comedy 'The Thick of It',
and follows Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), a Cabinet Minister who makes
a series of unfortunate slip-ups, the first is when he tells an
interviewer that he believes war (always referred to as the invasion or
the war, but never Iraq or potentially Afghanistan) is "unforeseeable"
before telling journalists under pressure that you have to conquer a
mountain of conflict on the path of peace. These mistakes place him in
the middle of a diplomatic mine-field as both, the anti-war
constabulary led by General Miller (James Gandolfini) and the Assistant
Secretary of Diplomacy Karen Clark (Mimi Kennedy), and the gung-ho
supporter of war Linton Barwick (David Rasche) - so crazy he keeps a
live grenade as a paperweight - want Simon as a transatlantic partner
to support their cause. Should he put his conscience or his political
career first? Oh, and throw in hilariously vicious Senior British Press
Office Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) and a bumbling Adviser to the
minster (Toby played by Chris Addison) and you have one of the best
political satires to come from Britain in years.
What makes the film work so well is the incredibly sharp witty script from a collaboration of writers that keeps the gag-per-minute counter ticking. Every meeting, confrontation political mishap is cradled with joke after joke whether they are subtle references to the cynicism and underhandedness in the current (or foregone) political climate or simply one of Malcolm Tucker's fantastic rants "I'm going to tear out your shinbone, split it in two and stab you to f**king death with it" - at ineptitude of everybody around him. Every actor and actress involved give solid performances as the flawed members of the tense political world. While Simon's central story keeps the film on the ground despite a few diplomatic detours (that are still hilarious, even though they take up little of the running of time).
Armando Iannucci has already proved to the British public that he can create entertainment for the TV-masses and 'In The Loop' proves he also has the skills to replicate this on a wider, international, big-screen scale as well. It's intelligent, it's offensive, and it's bleeding funny. See this film!
In the Loop is an unusually good and funny film from a usually tepid
and rather unfunny genre. After enduring an onslaught of mediocre films
centered around the war in Iraq, 2009 seems to have finally brought
audiences closer to cinematic resolution: first Kathryn Bigelow's
invigorating The Hurt Locker gave us a fresh insight, and now this: a
relatively lighter affair, to be sure, but one of such rapid-fire wit
that a second viewing is almost required.
In stereotypically British fashion, the humour is dry you probably won't experience many belly laughs and yet selling it merely as such seems like something of a disservice to its quality. Best described in one line as a blend of Dr. Strangelove, This Is Spinal Tap and the Ricky Gervais Office series, director Armando Iannucci has parodied the lunacy of political disinformation and thoughtless rhetoric without his film coming across as a laborious broken record or the mouthpiece of an insufferable pacifist. No, you don't have to be a liberal to enjoy this (although I can't necessarily picture Bill O'Reilly endorsing it) anyone with an appreciation for intelligent comedy, regardless of personal views, should find something to admire here, and it'll be a shame if the picture isn't at least nominated for Best Screenplay by year's end.
The film is a spin-off of Iannucci's UK show The Thick of It, starring a couple of the same characters, and it presumably takes place during the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq (although, to be fair, we're never given the precise name of the country being targeted, nor the date for which these events take place).
The plot moves fast and some of the characters are hard to get a handle on at first, but it goes something like this: Britain's Minister of International Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), has a slip of the tongue while recording a live radio interview, admitting that any instance of war is "unforeseeable" and thereby perhaps even necessary thus enraging the Prime Minister's Director of Communications, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi in a scathingly brilliant performance). At the behest of the PM, Tucker has Foster and his new assistant, Toby (Chris Addison), shipped off to Washington, D.C., where they suffer a game of political discourse with a pro-war State Department official (played well by David Rasche). The film also features talented actors in minor roles: James Gandolfini appears in one of the film's most unexpectedly funny scenes, as a four-star general who computes the cost of a hypothetical war using a kids' toy calculator. ("At the end of a war, you need some soldiers left, really, or else it looks like you've lost.") Steve Coogan, whose wonderful Alan Partridge was co-created by Iannucci, pops up in one of the more silly-minded sequences, as a man with a bit of a wall issue.
Though the film has achieved almost unanimous praise amongst critics, there have been some complaints, namely those of the NY Press' Armond White. Usually I don't address the comments of other reviewers, mainly because I typically don't care, but also because everyone is entitled to their own opinion; yet I felt compelled to respond to White's assertion that "Iannucci's sense of place is indistinguishable from The Office or The West Wing." The Office, sure, but The West Wing? Really? Did we watch the same film, Mr. White? That show's relative glamorization of closed door politics could not be at more complete odds with In the Loop, both in style and substance. What's particularly interesting is that UK magazine Time Out did an article on the film last year, and even cited the movie's production design as being the polar opposite of The West Wing's. Journalist Dave Calhoun wrote: "Iannucci tells me that he sees In the Loop as a cousin of The Thick of It. The similarities are everywhere, down to the docu-style, hand-held camera-work evident on the monitors (it's the same director of photography) and the anti-'West Wing' production design that throws all notions of political glamour out the window." I mention this only because it is worth pointing out the movie's heavy cynicism. Screen International's David D'Arcy noted the film's untimely release: "Its exuberant, boundless cynicism will test the demand for political satire in an Obama-infatuated America." I respectfully disagree audiences have never shown an inclination towards noting their countries' present failures, which would perhaps best explain why almost every single motion picture focused on the Iraq War since 2003 has been a box office flop. Audiences flock to cinemas for escapism not reminders. If time heals all wounds, then perhaps this is the opportune time to release In the Loop: at a point when we can begin to take a step back and accept the humour.
Regardless: this is a very sharp, decisive comedy, and certainly worth seeking out. The "instant classic" label is vastly overused, but it is perhaps not unforeseeable that this film may one day be for politics what Spinal Tap was for heavy metal.
In other words: an instant classic.
Political comedy is a hard stunt to pull off. Ever since 1964, it
seemed like nothing could top Dr. Strangelove. A lot of movies have
tried and a lot have failed, although there were the lucky few that
passed the bar (Election, Thank You for Smoking) but the brilliant
thing about In The Loop is that it's so stupidly funny that it's one of
the best comedies of the 21st Century! Armando Iannucci, most known for
his The Thick of It series in the UK, directs a movie with the a the
familiar theme of The Office. That documentary-style of film-making can
be hit-or-miss (most recently, Public Enemies, a miss) and Iannucci
hits it right on. Every scene he graces with a camera comes out picture
perfect; nobody could've pegged this movie any better. Iannucci, Jesse
Armstrong, Tony Roche and Simon Blackwell's script is something out of
picture show heaven and sounds like it must've taken forever to finish,
edit, revise, etc. Although these guys, these geniuses, apparently know
what they're doing and don't care what anybody else says. That is the
heart and soul of movie-making, readers. In The Loop is about a corrupt
British government that accidentally gets the country thrown into the
middle of a war. Loop stars Peter Capaldi, Gina McKee, James
Gandolfini, Chris Addison and there's even a whimsical cameo by Steve
Coogan. Capaldi is the absolute best at what he did, spewing swears as
coarse as they are a riot ("fuck you, you lubricated horse cock!") and
freaking out. I can't even put into words just how funny this guy was;
he made the movie! But don't forget Addison as Toby. Addison is the
British Napoleon Dynamite, that incredibly awkward guy that makes even
the audience members turn red. James Gandolfini and Gina McKee round
out the rest of the cast greatly, filling In The Loop with the type of
sexual tension that you don't want to think about. It's like when a sex
scene pops up on a DVD you're watching with your parents. Yeah, that
bad.In The Loop is one of the most laugh out loud comedies I've seen in
the past decade, that sadly nobody will get a chance to watch. In a
world of Transformers and G.I Joe, In The Loop will sadly be ignored.
But on an optimistic note, we may have found this summer's sleeper,
There is something about British comedy that resonates with me. I don't
know if it is because we in the States experience so little of it, or
maybe because Hollywood rapes and pillages the material for their own
water-downed versions, but the humor just seems fresh, uncensored, and
hilarious. When I first came across the new political black comedy In
the Loop, I will admit to being less than interested. The marketing
materials were using the whole Obama silkscreen poster look and I
really wasn't interested in a movie about how the US and Britain
decided to go into the Middle East. But then the buzz started. The
realization that the film was shot with a penchant for improv, a desire
to entertain rather than teach, and a cast of characters looking as
though they are in a Christopher Guest movie, soon turned that
preconception around. This is a fantastic film that never lets up on
the laughs or one-liners. I just hope people go into it knowing that
this isn't how it actually happened
but then who knows? Sometimes the
truth is stranger than fiction.
The back and forth dialogue is so quick that I couldn't believe my eyes when I read a quote from the director about it all being about 80-85% scripted. He says that he gave the actors leeway to break course and even do takes without scripts at all, but when culling everything together, most of what stuck actually maintained the verbiage laid out by its five screenwriters. Each of these men, including director Armando Iannucci, has been working with British television and all have collaborated on the show "The Thick of It". I will say now, if I get a chance to check it out, I most certainly will. Political satire is not necessarily my favorite thing in the worldI'll watch the odd "Daily Show" episodebut after viewing this laugh-riot, checking out a spoof on the British political system, of which I know very little, could be a ton of fun. Heck, just the inclusion of Peter Capaldi will get me to stop surfing when I reach the BBC. This guy steals the show without question.
Capaldi plays Malcolm Turner, a Brit on the frontline of politics as an aide to the Prime Minister, spinning everything and anything to save face. With no time to spare on his running across the Atlantic to put out fires wherever his compatriots start them, you will have to forgive his abrasive, sarcastic, and just plain mean demeanor. The idea of war is being bandied about on talk shows, behind closed-door governmental meetings, and all over the media machine, and it is up to him to keep a lid on it by walking the party line, neither stating a fight is inevitable or unforeseeabletwo terms that the buffoon who is British Secretary of State for International Development Simon Foster, played beautifully by the ever capable Tom Hollander, loves to utter. Foster just has to open his mouth to cause a stir felt around the world, and each time, of course, Malcolm Turner is there to chastise and humiliate his stupidity.
The film ultimately revolves around the journey Hollander's Foster takes in trying to enhance exposure for himself. Partaking in talk shows or talking out of turn when enlisted to just be "room meat", some of the Americans begin to see him as someone abroad that shares their sentiment that war is a bad idea. While David Rasche's Linton Barwicka hardcore proponent of battle, even using a live grenade as a paperweightforms secret committees to discuss strategies for war, Mimi Kennedy's Karen Clarke and James Gandolfini's Lt. General George Miller are looking for ways to get into that meeting and shut it down. As a result, those two dissenters try to get Foster at every event to awkwardly express his stance of war being unforeseeable, hoping to deter any people on the fence that may be in attendance. So, Malcolm must run back and forth through England and DC spinning things his way and lambasting anyone that gets in his line of fire. Either Foster is too oblivious to care about the verbal assaults thrown his way or he just feels he can blame his Director of Communications Judy, who he makes stay at home while he globe-trots with his new young adviser Toby, (Gina McKee and Chris Addison respectively). Toby and Foster are so similar in their awe of America and lack of experience that their adventures make for good cinema, taking camera phone pics out their limo and speaking about getting hookers for the ride.
In the Loop is expertly acted and, for the most part, I have to credit that to the intelligent script being utilized. Whether the actors are improvising or not, the original text they are sticking to or springboarding from needed to be strong. By using all the jokes and imbecilic actions we associate with politicians, the writers have crafted a plausible, if not entirely idiotic, account of the days leading up to our countries' joint invasion. Documents are leaked, words are twisted, and supposed partners are stabbed in the back. But through it all we have Capaldi doing his best to keep Britain's stance as noncommittal as possible. And, truthfully, the way in which he does it makes for what has to be the funniest role of the year. Every word out of his mouth is acerbic and full of double meaning. With the f-word spewing at will and demeaning name-callings going left and right, make sure your head is clear if British speech sometimes troubles you in the comprehension realm. Understanding his words definitely pays off, keeping what would otherwise be a slightly bloated and meandering plot grounded in comedic excellence.
The Big Questions: Can an adult comedy (i.e one without masturbation,
anal sex, and talking genitals) attract people during the summer
season? Can director Armando Iannucci, known for BBC series "The Thick
of It", adapt the series to the screen in "In the Loop"? Does this
war-room satire bring anything new to war-room satires?
Tom Hollander (the last two Pirates of the Caribbean movies) plays British Secretary of State Simon Foster, who in a radio interview says that war with the Middle East is "unforeseeable." The statement is enough to send the Prime Minister's chief adviser Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) into hysterics. The US President and UK Prime Minister are keen on a war and Tucker wants to give it to them. In Washington, Deputy Secretary of State Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy) has learned of a secret War Committee formed by Linton Barwick (David Rasche) and she dispatches her secretary, Liza (Anna Chlumsky, yup, from 1991's "My Girl"), to find out everything she can about it. Clarke and General Miller (James Gandolfini) are against the war and are willing to do anything in their power to stop it, even inviting Simon and his assistant Toby (Chris Addison) to Washington thinking that Simon might be usable. Just Simon is a clueless pawn without the slightest idea what he's doing. Other story strands center around an anti-war paper written by Liza, and an affair she has with Toby.
The foolishness of government war-mongering is sent-up well by this profane and viciously over the top comedy. If you've read the several books about the events leading up to the Iraq War, the constant and disconcerting string of manipulation, deception, back-door tactics, and posturing for political career gain, as well as how they all think of it as a game without consequences, incorporated by these underlings won't shock you too much, but the laughs just might. Shot with a hand-held camera that brings to mind "The Office", these people run around like chickens with their heads chopped off (some of which is very hard to even keep track of) trying to win out over the other side. The fast pacing, profanely clever dialogue, and flying insults are relentless. There are references to CNN being the Cartoon News Network, kids just out of college making big White House decisions, a sexual encounter for world peace, and a funny attack on a fax machine. In addition to turning profanity into a bodily function, characters (usually) shout pop culture references (John and Yoko, Kid from Eraserhead), and various other more derogatory names at each other. It's a tad excessive at times, but funny.
Peter Capaldi is the key stand-out in the cast, being the most over-the-top of them all. His obscene and excessively profane performance as the Prime Minister's lead guy is tremendously entertaining as he continues to verbally lay-out anyone he doesn't like or that gets in his way with ridiculously clever barbs. Hollander does well with the role of the cluelessly spineless Simon Foster. James Gandolfini and Mimi Kennedy each give strong performances, and Chris Addison, Anna Chlumsky (its good to see her back by the way), and the rest of the cast do nice work as well. Also look for Steve Coogan in a funny cameo as a "fogged off" Brit complaining about a wall.
The Verdict: While excessive and hard to follow at times, Iannucci, and his three other writers, create an adult satire that, while may not be for everybody, is pretty funny.
Fast paced blend of close-to-truth political intrigue, satire, clever
banter and intensity, with enough simplified and goofy humor to keep
American audiences shrieking with laughter. The LA festival audience
was blessedly quiet through the more subtle and deeply clever humor, so
if you have a pan-Atlantic sensibility you can laugh at the cleverly
done but obvious stuff, as well as the richer humor that requires
The cast - American, English and Scottish all did an amazing job with high synergy.
There is quite a lot of both obvious and subtle political and cultural allegory, homages, and oblique references.
It was great to see it in a packed theater, and get that immersive social experience one does not get with a DVD.
Greetings again from the darkness. A spin-off of the British series The
Thick of it, this film comes across as an odd mixture of Dr
Strangelove, Spinal Tap, The Office ... think Christopher Guest remakes
The West Wing. There are some incredibly funny lines and therein lies
the films only problem.
What prevents the film from being truly great is that the comedy lines are so well written (and acted) that the story itself is shoved aside. Kind of a shame because I love the basis for the story. Combining the politics of both the U.S. and England and weaving their process and decision making into one film ... and then backdropping the decision on whether to go to war, is ingenious and fascinating. But as I said, the story takes a real backseat and many viewers will pay scant attention to the entire war theme. Watching politicians negotiate for power and struggle with quotable (yet meaningless) phrases is a hoot. And the posturing is not limited to the power brokers, as we see their assistants are playing the same game ... just with less at stake.
Ultimately the film works as an aggressive, loud, foul mouthed quote fest and not so much as the political editorial it could/should have been. Peter Capaldi dominates the film as the spin doctor who uses intimidation to mask his schemes. Tom Hollander would have been the soul of the film, if it were better developed as a story. All will recognize him from Pirates of Caribbean. James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy, David Rasche and James Gandolfini provide the U.S. contingency that are deflatingly realistic and make us so "proud". Don't miss a funny turn by the great Steve Coogan as the poor citizen who just wants his mum's retaining wall repaired so it doesn't crush her in the greenhouse. While certainly not woven seamlessly into the film, it does provide a shot of realism for what Hollander's character would face.
Lastly, it is very nice to see Anna Chlumsky back on screen. An immediate child star in My Girl ... remember her kiss with Maculey Culkin? Ms. Chlumsky is now a mature presence and should definitely be a consistent actress for years to come.
Armando Iannucci's brilliant political satire, 'The Thick Of It', takes obvious cues from real events (and personalities) in British politics; and cooks these ingredients into a splendidly toxic broth personified by the character of Maclolm Tucker, spin doctor extraordinaire, the man with the most inventive foulmouth on the planet. The other protagonists are slimy, incompetent, self-serving; but part of Iannucci's genius is that even as you hate them, you almost end up feeling sorry for them as well, doomed to play their part in the political machine. It's a brilliant programme; what's even more unusual is the success of its adaptation to the big screen. To make 'In the Loop', Iannucci has directly addressed one of the biggest recent political stories, the second Gulf War, which also allows him to introduce a range of American archetypes into his drama; as with his British characters, the mixture of exaggeration, subtlety and sheer venality in their portrayals is wonderfully judged. And although wholly fictional, as an account of how certain intelligence dossiers came to be faked, it's also wholly compelling and believable. Less surprisingly, many of the regular cast from the TV series also feature in the film, although (Peter Capaldi as Tucker aside) in slightly different roles. But there's no denying the basic quality of the humour here; the title of this review, incidentally, is one character's description of opera. A film which makes you laugh or think as much is rare; one which does both is something special indeed.
This is not a movie for those looking for the cosy delusional homilies and self congratulatory tributes to politicians of something like Yes Minister, it's vulgar, raw, enticing. An excellent comedy that never lets a moment pass without something to amuse, whilst being painfully poignant at the same time. In the build up to war, the UK government conspires to provide made up intelligence to the US to justify an act of war... sound familiar? Really, really, really funny and those who claim Yes Minister and it's ilk are superior, or more representative of what goes on in the 'corridors of power', aren't living in the real world. Critics who compare this to 'The Thick of It': remember, if this movie includes the same characters it's obviously set before the events of 'in the loop', hence we might expect them to be more energetic, rawer and ... well swear a lot. I'm not sure the pacing of TToI would have worked in movie form and it's nice to see that the writers were able to translate the basic idea to a successful movie, unlike so many TV adaptations which have fallen flat on their faces.
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