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In the Loop (2009)


  • Review: *** (out of ****)
  • Starring: Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Gnia McKee, James Gandolfini, Chris Addison, Anna Chlumsky, Paul Higgins, Mimi Kennedy, Alex Macqueen, Olivia Poulet, David Rasche, James Smith, Zach Woods, Enzo Cilenti, Johnny Pemberton, Joanna Scanlan, Steve Coogan
  • Director: Armando Iannucci
  • Screenplay: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
  • Length: 106 min.
  • MPAA Rating: Unknown

Politics is such an easy target to poke fun at, ridicule and lampoon. In the Loop mines the subject for humor while skewering the machinations used to get things done.

Behind the scenes at #10 Downing Street, headquarters of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a foul-mouthed agency director (Peter Capaldi) who reels whenever one of his subordinates makes the office look stupid or demeans the office of the Prime Minister.

Behind all this is the key plot of the film, namely the backroom dealings and political rumblings that surrounded the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and Britain’s complicity. While the subject is never dealt with superficially, it’s not as biting as it could possibly have been.

From the smart, but lazy Lt. Gen. George Miller (James Gandolfini) to the well-meaning, but incompetent Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), the film is filled with broad characters that seem drawn directly from British comedies dating as far back as the ‘60s. They are intended to convey complex social and political rhetoric while being palatable and accessible to the audience. That the film still remains slightly aloof at times is a bit troubling.

The performances aren’t terribly unusual, nor are they terribly involving. You don’t care about any of the characters in the film, and vicariously, you don’t really care what’s going on around them. These are simple characters with little emotional or thematic depth and the actors don’t go too terribly far in creating something more than just generic. Gandfolini’s fine, as are Hollander, Gina McKee and Mimi Kennedy.

As for Capaldi, you can’t like Malcolm Tucker. He’s a vile man that is too often reminiscent of those aggravating bosses you’ve had who put you down at every opportunity. While that’s convincing, the necessity for someone to be so loud and crass doesn’t really add to the film.

Although I use the word broad to describe the characters in the film, the comedy of In the Loop is anything but. It’s not overzealous like something out of Absolutely Fabulous, nor is it as biting as Ricky Gervais’ The Office. Gervais is probably the best current comic correlation, but even that comparison is a bit excessive. It lays somewhere beneath Gervais’ style of comedy, though not by much. It’s clearly a film that wants its audience to be amused more by the situation than about the actual content of any specific set of dialogue.

In the Loop is an acquired taste. It won’t appeal to those who want to laugh out loud frequently. It’s amusing in a sarcastic, bitter kind of way, lashing out at a corrupt political machine more keen on not admitting involvement, while actively trying to get involved. Every maneuver is pushed to the extreme as each person wants in on the action and few of them have the moral resilience to back away from something reprehensible.