Review: In the Loop
PLOT: In 2002 in the US and UK, rumblings begin about a possible impending invasion in Iraq, with mixed reactions. Once word leaks to the media, all hell breaks loose as a handful of low-level government officials on both sides of the pond inadvertently become patsies for their governmentís quest for war. Itís a comedy!
This film was reviewed as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival
REVIEW: In the Loop, television director Armando Iannucciís riotous new satire is already making waves and building buzz with critics worldwide, and after the first five minutes of this film, itís clear why.
It all kicks off in 2002 in the U.K. office of an angry man named Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi). A title card tells us he works for the Prime Minister, a position of high-prestige, yet not high-profile. We know he pulls a lot of weight in government, even if weíre not quite sure what his exact role is, but one thing is clear: he likes to stay away from the press. So when a lower-ranking member of government (Tom Hollander) makes a verbal slip in reference to a potential war in Iraq during a radio interview, the media goes nuts, Tucker blows a gasket, and the fun begins.
Before long, all sorts of obscure government officials (and even their lowly assistants) get involved in the chaos as things spiral out of control. Along the way most of the characters unknowingly have a hand in creating one of the greatest war blunders in modern history.
Unusual for a comedy, the film is shot in a gritty, hand-held documentary style similar to the original British version of The Office. But unlike Ricky Gervais in that series, and unlike Christopher Guestís hilarious bunch of idiots in his mockumentaries, these characters arenít complete dumbasses; they simply donít belong in government. Each of them is intelligent and knowledgeable about the world around them, and yet, when it comes to government policy, they act as if they stumbled into the job blindly. Itís a hilarious and original idea that is further accelerated by a terrific, mostly unrecognizable cast, with the notable exceptions of Steve Coogan as a pesky British constituent and James Gandolfini in a brilliant turn as a sarcastic U.S. General.
While the film is definitely an ensemble piece, Peter Capaldi is the one who will likely go down in cinema infamy as one of the great comedic villains of all time (seriously). The insults he throws at anyone and everyone in this film, with deadpan ferocity, had the audience rolling on the floor with laughter, so much so that we missed much of the jokes because the laughter hadnít died down from the last gag.
It is indeed the script that is this filmís greatest strength. Dialogue is fresh, witty, and extremely venomous and dark for such a tongue-in-cheek film, creating a unique and incredibly intelligent flick (sometimes too intelligent in fact).
While the film could and should become a breakout hit with American audiences, weíre definitely not looking at the next Juno here. In the Loop is nowhere near as cutesy, poppy or hip as the new wave of comedies being slung at American audiences today. Yet, unlike the previously mentioned film, lines here are delivered in an improvisational, effortless, free-flowing style that lent a great deal of authenticity to the whole thing.
As for shortcomings? As previously mentioned, it may be a bit too intelligent for mass audiences. There were times when I myself got lost in all the fast-talking politics and lobbying going on, but hey, that may have been the point, as the characters all felt like they were lost too. Brilliant.
IN THE LOOP comes to the U.S. in limited release July 24th. Get in on it.