This satirical take on American and British politics presents a behind-the-scenes look at the actions of government officials and advisors in the days leading up to the declaration of war on Iraq in 2003. Characters battle for the reigns in the race to either start the war or prevent it. The film follows many characters throughout these processes in both Great Britain and America.
A central character that serves as a catalyst for the events of the film is Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), Secretary of State for International Development in Great Britain. Across the film, Simon’s blundering comments to the media only serve to submerge him further within the abyss of government policies. He states in the opening of the film that he feels “war is unforeseeable,” and this comment creates political pandemonium in his life.
The Prime Minister’s insulting Director of Communications, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), gives Simon a thrashing for not holding to “the line.” A “line” that is never defined, and which Simon does not fully understand. It seems like a Catch 22 situation no matter how you look at it. Simon and his unlucky new aide, Toby (Chris Addison), travel back and forth between England and America to try to lessen the impact of the formers unfortunate statements. It all becomes worse, though, and I could not stop laughing.
With a clever screenplay that never misses a chance to provide a witty joke and an amazingly talented cast, this film is absolute gold. Speaking of not skipping a beat, the filmmakers even parodied the Obama hope poster and made a few of their own. Here are two of them:
This film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards. Little known fact – it won for Best Overlooked Film of the Year. I had to wait for this movie to become available for DVD, because every theater in Richmond, Virginia cares more about screening overly publicized Hollywood flops than showing smaller, all around great films.
In the Loop was adapted from a BBC television series entitled The Thick of It. That phrase perfectly explains the situation of the characters in this film. Many of them are recurring roles that are carried over from the television show. I have not seen the program yet; it primarily focuses on the British side of things, and I’m looking forward to watching it soon.
In the movie, they introduce the American side of things, revealing another viewpoint of the politically driven war that has brought the U.S. to the verge of crumbling. General Miller (James Gandolfini) and Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy), Secretary of State for Diplomacy, wage their own war to stop this bigger one. Anna Chlumsky, who played the lead role in the My Girl films, portrays Karen’s assistant, Liza Weld. She seemed to disappear from acting for a while, but she is back and sarcastic as hell in this film; it’s amazing. Their general antagonist, Linton Barwick (David Rasche), U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Policy, wants nothing more than to invade Iraq. Most of the characters on both sides of the Pacific will do anything they can to get what they want.
I have included all of these characters’ position titles to show how ridiculous governments can truly be. There is an occupation for everything, except for people outside of the government – especially these days. Instead of focusing on the President or Prime Minister, this film follows these individuals on the political staffs; the ones who make the decisions that alter all of our lives. These people are not nice individuals either, but they are the ones running our country. I understand it’s just a movie, but this stuff is happening today and with higher frequency.
To put it simply, we’re doomed.
Despite – or maybe because of – these unfavorable times, the filmmakers provide a satirical view of the inner workings of these two governments. Director Armando Iannucci and his fellow writers composed all the episodes of The Thick of It, and they return for the film as well. Having all the writers from the show come for the film results in the production of something brilliant. I can’t say enough about the writing, it is sheer genius. Every quote I’ve read about this movie states that the writing is smart and hilarious. I could not have said it better myself, and these commentators show that I am not the only one talking about the script. IFC has posted the complete screenplay on their site, so go download that. It’s free! Here’s the link:
Filmed primarily with handheld cameras, this movie creates the sensation that you’re standing in the room overhearing the conversations of those around you. Watching the facial expressions and demeanor of characters in the background is a real treat. Everyone is doing something while they’re on screen.
This being the sensational film that it is, I’m afraid, in reviewing it, I would not do it justice. Maybe I have, maybe I haven’t. I’ll just say that the film is incredible in every imaginable aspect. The acting, filming and writing are great. Even the editing is done with such clever cues that it can also generate laughs. I know, I know. This sort of seemingly unwarranted praise generally leads moviegoers running in the opposite direction. I probably sound like some sort of fanatic who’s trying to make you watch a horrible film. This could not be further from the truth, though. I will let the film speak for itself, because once you have witnessed it you will understand that everything I have said is true; that none of my admiration is unjustified.
I’ll warn you all, there’s quite a lot of cursing, but, much like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, it only adds to the humor of the work. I don’t know – British comedy just gets it right. So, if you want to experience fantastic acting, great writing and smart humor, then In the Loop is right up your alley.
I give this: 5 out of 5 anti-war shags.