In the Loop (2009) dir. Armando Iannucci
Starring: Tom Hollander, Peter Capaldi, James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy, Anna Clumsky
I must be lucky here at my first year in Sundance, it’s been great film after great film. One of the best is Armando Iannucci’s uproariously funny political satire – “In the Loop” Inevitable comparisons to “Dr. Stangelove” will be made, and it would not be unfounded. Razor sharp dialogue anchor this one-of-a-kind comic masterpiece.
The film opens on Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), the UK Prime Minister’s Director of Communications. When he hears the Minister of International Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander,) sound off on a radio program that war in the Middle East is ‘unforseeable’ the PR snafu sets off a shit storm from the UK to Washington. Tucker goes into spin control and tries to put out the fire before the world catches on that the UK might want a war.
Iannucci revels in taking the piss out of everyone and everything. Nobody is out of bounds Tom Hollander brilliantly plays his Minister of International Development character like neurotic affable boob and his profane exchanges of ass-stripping insults with Peter Capaldi are almost Shakespearean in it’s elaborate verbology.
Iannucci sticks his daggers into both the American political culture as much as the British (the Canadians and the French even get a sharp stab). One of the great sequences involves a trip to Washington by Foster and his aide. The duo marvel at the extent of security given to their politicians. Their motorcade ride to the Capitol gives us more than a few hilarious zingers.
Iannucci’s visual style would appear to put the film in the ‘Stephen Gaghan’ genre of political thrillers. Handheld, documentary like camerawork compliments well the wild comic absurdity which Iannucci bombards us with unrelenting force. At times the film feels like ‘The Office’ meets ‘Syriana’ – an ambitious combination to merge but pulled off with great confidence and comedic chutzpah.
Though this is Iannucci’s first feature he honed his comic style in a number of classic British comedy series. In fact “In the Loop” grew out his acclaimed 2005 series, ‘The Thick of It”, so it’s no surprise the comic timing, and assured satirical tone is pitch perfect. The manic complexities of the dozen or so character goals never get bogged down with overplotting. And all the actors riff and roll with one another like a well-oiled machine.
If one scene could sum up the film’s satirical brilliance, it’s the absurdly funny sequence which has James Gandolfini’s brash military general character calculating the potential loss of life from an Iraq war using a child’s talking calculator – a clever nod to George C. Scott’s great speech in the war room in “Dr. Strangelove”.
“In the Loop” is one of the funniest films in a very long while.