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Review: In The Loop (2009)

June 29th, 2010

I kind of wish there had been a bigger media push for this film. It really could have taken off in theaters.

Quite simply, there are a handful of movies that manage to just make one laugh out loud uncontrollably.  It’s more common that you run across those comedies in a theater when mob mentality has you rolling in the rows.  I last experienced this with The Hangover and, before that, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  It is that more rare comedy that can have you rolling with laughter when watching at home.  I present to you one extraordinary example of that in In the Loop.

Based on the British TV show “The Thick Of It,” the political drama is one-third The Office (UK version), one-third Curb Your Enthusiasm and one-third The West Wing.  In other words, it’s freaking brilliant, even though its not for the faint of heart when it comes to language.

The BBC program it was based on focused solely on the antics of Downing Street enforcer Malcolm Turner (Peter Capaldi, a veteran of Brit TV shows such as Torchwood: Children of the Earth, which I reviewed yesterday).  Turner is the Machiavellian, potty mouthed king of communications and the show follows his interactions with the team at the Ministry of Social Affairs.  There he deals with MP Hugh Abbot and his right hands Glenn Cullen, Terri Coverley (Joanna Scanlan)  and Oliver Reeder (Chris Addison).

In the film, director and producer Armando Iannucci keeps Capaldi’s Malcom Turner in place and reshuffles a few actors like Addison into new characters who retain some of the characteristics, despite different roles.  As impish aide Oliver Reeder, Addison plays Mr. Fix-It as a transfer into a dysfunctional foreign development ministry and its incompetent MP Simon Foster (Tom Hollander).  The story follows Foster’s role in the run-up to a UN resolution to declare war in a situation that is a thinly veiled stand-in for Iraq.  No Qumar here, either.  They just don’t overtly reference the country.

Click through to keep on keeping on.

The parody is not simply of the operations of 10 Downing Street and MPs.  It also hits on the Pentagon, State Department and White House as the actions goes cross continental.  Mimi Kennedy and David Rasche are great as Assistant Secretaries of State Karen Clark and Linton Barwick, respectively, on opposite sides of the buildup to war.  James Gandolfini is also great as Three-Star General George Miller.

Capaldi and Addison are simply awesome as Malcolm Tucker and Toby Wright. And some of Tucker's finest profanities are reserved for the aide.

But the real win in this adventure are the aides.  Notably, Addison, Gina McKee (as Foster chief aide Judy Molloy), Anna Chlumsky (as Clark aide Liza Weld) and Zach Woods (as Clarke aide and general kissup Chad).  Chlumsky was last seen in the My Girl movies from way back when while Woods is now going to be a regular on the US version of The Office.

The humor is often vile in the depth of language used and it has some of the organic feel that can only come with a semi-scripted parody.  It’s almost as if Capaldi was challenged by Iannucci to find inventive new ways to curse and turn faces red.  He succeeds with great humor, as reflected in the Youtube clip linked below which is, it need not be really said, not for the faint of heart.

It’s not just the cursing which makes one laugh though.  There’s plenty of outstanding ironic humor and awkward situational comedy along with a script that moves well enough to keep pace for the laughs, while not burdening one with deep thoughts about a pretty dark subject matter (that being the Iraq war).

All in all, this is a no brainer.  Either you rent this movie now, or you do what I did and give it a straight up buy.  I’m also a handful of episodes in to “The Thick of It” and have been greatly enjoying that.  One way or another, huge A+ for Iannucci.



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