Sunday, April 8, 2012

In The Loop

Movie Review: In The Loop

Director: Armando Iannucci

Reviewed: 6 April 2012

jamesintexas rating--**** (4 Stars = Highest Rating)

"Shut it, Love Actually!" Do you want me to hole-punch your face?"

In The Loop, perched around my top ten list of films of the 2000's, could be the darkest, funniest, most painfully satirical film of the past decade, surpassing even Borat. A film of our times, reflecting and refracting the maddening, collusive lead-up to a war in the Middle East that mirrors our own country's involvement in Iraq in the spring of 2003, Armando Iannucci's film has a pervasive and deeply inspired cursing, as well as across the Atlantic witticisms and barbs that sting (several of the Brit pols are referred to as Ron Weasley, Frodo; the Americans, the kid from The Shining, the kid from The Omen). Influenced by the camera work of The Office, Iannucci immerses us in the world of 10 Downing Street and D.C., but not with the Prime Minister or the President. Instead, we get the down-and-dirty perspective of the workaholic under-secretaries, ministers, Cabinet members, and various office staff swirling about, leaking reports to the media, sleeping with each other, holding and switching allegiances. Everyone talks fast, everyone is smart, the characters talk on their phones (at one point, one character talks on two phones simultaneously), and the tapestry of obscenity is flat-out brilliant. In terms of cursing, this film is the funniest of the past ten years at least.

Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker walks away with the film. As the maestro of spin in charge of ramping up, protecting, hiding the U.K.'s intentions leading up to war in the Middle East, he uses a very graphic and articulate vocabulary to keep Cabinet members in line, to delay and speed up the United Nations, to falsify and sell intel, as well as to verbally humiliate underlings ("I prefer psychological maiming," he admits at one point). Implicit in the sharp performance is that what a person in government says is not necessarily what was said. The truth is malleable, shapeable, deniable, and erasable as another bureaucrat helpfully points out.

This film is an essential political comedy on par with Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.

I cannot emphasize how funny and painful this film is. Marvelously well-cast, Tony Soprano himself (James Gandolfini) is a standout as a U.S. Lt. General George Miller, Anna Chlumsky from My Girl emerges as a harried assistant who writes a paper that is suddenly thrust into the national conversation. Tom Hollander, the excellent Mr. Collins from the recent Pride and Prejudice, is a delight as a Cabinet member incapable of keeping his mouth closed, not walking into trouble, but taciturnly considering his resignation as well as the mating habits of hammerhead sharks. Steve Coogan pops in as a disgruntled villager, concerned about his wall. Minor characters are indelible, dialogue pops, and the story-telling never loses sight of its commitment to depicting all the characters in the film-all of them-as smart and articulate. A refreshing change of pace and ultimately a searing indictment of the way a war is sold to an unaware public by much chicanery.

How can you not like a film with a line of dialogue like this delivered with aplomb by Malcolm Tucker to a fresh-faced 22 year-old Washington bureaucrat in the White House? Malcolm announces, "We burned this tight-arsed city to the ground in 1814. And I'm all for doing it again, starting with you!"

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