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In The Loop

United Kingdom 2010
Directed by
Armando Iannucci
106 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
4 stars

In The Loop

Synopsis: When Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), the British Secretary for International Development, accidentally backs military action in Iraq after previously opposing it, he finds himself and his entourage of one, Toby Wright (Chris Addison), dispatched to Washington to participate in discussions leading up to the UN vote deciding whether or not to invade. To ensure he stays “on message”, the greatly-feared Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), the Prime Minister’s chief of communications, keeps watch over him.

There is something truly beautiful and amazingly entertaining about a carefully crafted and elaborate put-down. There’s nothing impressive about calling someone names, but to devise insanely baroque turns of phrase is a sign of genius. The British have a fascinating history of sword-like wordplay and In The Loop, the cinematic spawn of the satirical teleseries The Thick Of It, continues this tradition with some of the snarkiest, clever and funniest verbal abuse you’ll have heard in years. I loved every foul-mouthed moment of it. Malcolm Tucker is a comedic Don Logan (Ben Kingsley’s swaggering peacock of terror in Sexy Beast). The force of personality on show as he browbeats, humiliates and punishes everyone unlucky enough to cross his path is hugely enjoyable. And here he’s out of his depth as well. He’s a Brit in America, with no power and no pull, struggling to put together a coup for his boss against the forces of peace and goodwill that would like to see a war in Iraq averted. And nicely, he’s not intimidated at all. Instead, he’s using the English language as a weapon of mass destruction.

In The Loop is the best political satire in years. Imagine Yes, Minister by way of The Office, written by David Mamet after he’s been told he writes like a schoolgirl. That’s the best I can do to describe this film. It’s sly, cynical, clever, brutal to its characters and above all else, absolutely hysterical. The machinations of the various political factions, the accidental leaks and the deliberate mishandling of information, the secret committees that somehow get discovered and all the wheeling and dealing, posturing and machismo are handled with verve. The pace of the film never flags, and by the end of it you'll find yourself feeling sorry for just about everyone, even the people you should hate. But above all else, you should fall in love with hating Malcolm Tucker, a conniving, abusive monster who gets to rain bloody vengeance on anyone who gets in his way with some of the most entertaining monologues I’ve heard in years. It’s a sign of the times that you couldn’t imagine Sir Humphrey operating in this kind of environment. The political world has changed from public service chicanery to spin doctors hounding journalists and threatening to withhold stories if they don’t get the coverage they want. In The Loop is as much a document of the changed nature of politics as it is an endearingly cynical satire.




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