Review: In the Loop
PLOT: In the days leading up to a U.S led war in the Middle East, a none-too-bright UK Minister, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), finds himself in hot water with the Prime Ministers top spin doctor, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) when he calls the war unforeseeable- leading to a trip to Washington D.C for the minister, and his young aide (Chris Addison). There, they encounter a general (James Gandolfini) - opposed to the war, a young lobbyist (Anna Chlumsky), who authors a paper that casts doubt on U.S intelligence, and a virulently pro-war State Department shark (David Rasche).
REVIEW: Satire is a tricky thing to pull off. Many of have tried, few have succeeded. Arnando Iannuccis IN THE LOOP, is the best political satire Ive seen in years. At times, I almost felt like I was watching our generations DR.STRANGELOVE. Now, Im not saying this is as good a film as Stanley Kubricks classic- its not, but it comes closer than any film Ive seen in a while.
Essentially, its a comedy about the days leading up the war in IRAQ, although the conflict is never named. Its similar to STRANGELOVE in that its a VERY funny film, about something frightening, and real. When Kubricks film came out in 1964- the Cuban Missile Crisis was still fresh in everyones minds, yet audiences still embraced the film, as laughing at the thing they most feared was likely empowering in a way. The same year, a serious look at nuclear war, FAIL SAFE, also opened- but that film tanked- similar to the way that all serious films about the war in Iraq have flopped (with the possible exception of THE HURT LOCKER). IN THE LOOP is probably a little too sophisticated a film to ever catch on in a big way, but I think itll definitely pick up a strong cult following, as it really does make us laugh at how ridiculous the decision makers in power on both sides of the Atlantic can be. Basically, imagine THE OFFICE, but with replace Dunder Miflin paper, with the Pentagon, and 10 Downing Street.
Being a British film about politics, much is made of the fact that Britain is no longer the super-power it was sixty years ago- with hapless politicians struggling to matter in the international scene. The interaction between the British and American politicians is priceless, with both sides constantly trying to appear as more important than the other. One of the brits, upon seeing how young some of the aides are, calls Washington, "Bugsy Malone, but with real guns".
Tom Hollander, who I only really know from the PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN sequels, is a revelation here as the bumbling minster trying desperately to matter in the international scene while simultaneously shirking all of hi responsibilities back home (perfectly summed up by a nifty cameo from an almost unrecognizable Steve Coogan, who previously worked with Iannucci on the brilliant ALAN PARTRIDGE show). Hes hilarious, while also bringing a bit of vulnerability to the role, which keeps him likable.
Less likable, but freakin hilarious is Peter Capaldi, as an unbelievably foul mouthed spin doctor (first words when entering the office in the morning: Good morning all my little chicks, and cocks). Hes probably the most fouled mouthed character Ive seen since Ben Kingsley in SEXY BEAST, and Capaldi is great in the role, which he previously played on Iannuccis recent BBC series THE THICK OF IT).
I also got a kick out of seeing Anna Chlumsky, from MY GIRL, all grown up, in a central role, as a busy young lobbyist. James Gandolfini also has a great role, as a sympathetic army general, trying to avert a potential war, while staying loyal to his government. This is the best role hes had since the end of THE SOPRANOS, and the big tête-à-tête he has with Capaldi is great.
I really hope people check out IN THE LOOP, as its truly a great satire- with generous helpings of Christopher Guest-style improvisations thrown into the mix. I really liked it, and Id definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an intelligent and surprisingly thought-provoking comedy.
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