In The Loop


Directed by: Armando Iannucci
Written by:Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
Starring: Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Gina McKee, James Gandolfini, Steve Coogan, Anna Chlumsky, Mimi Kennedy, David Rasche, Chris Addison
Released: January 21, 2010
Grade: B+

I do love political satires.  On the small screen, I think back to the 1980s and the brilliant British comedy called Yes, Minister.  Australians have a sense of humour too.  Check out The Hollowmen on the ABC to see what I mean.  Hell, even the Americans can make a great political comedy.  Please refer to Bulworth, Wag The Dog and Dr. Strangelove as textbook examples.

In The Loop begins in London with the Minister for International Development, Simon Foster (Hollander), making a foolish “off the cuff” comment.  When asked in a radio interview about his thoughts on a possible military action in the Middle East, he responds by saying the war is “unforeseeable”.

When Malcolm Tucker (Capaldi) from the Prime Minister’s Press Office hears the interview, he’s none too pleased.  Well, that’s actually an understatement.  He storms over to Foster’s office commences a tirade of abuse at both him and his staff.  I don’t think there’s an expletive he doesn’t use.  The British Government has no plans of going to war and Foster’s remarks fully contradicted the party’s policy.

Across the Atlantic, the Americans see this as an opportunity.  The Assistant Secretary of State, Linton Barwick (Rasche), has set up a secret war committee and is drumming up support to send troops to the Middle East.  Barwick has seized on Foster’s comments and is proclaiming that the U.S. now has support from the UK government.

It’s going to get a lot messier.  There are at least a dozen characters in this ensemble and they’ve all got an agenda to push.  Who is pulling the strings?  Who ultimately has the power?  Who will make the final decision about whether to go to war?

In The Loop is an unusual film in that whilst it’s a comedy, none of the characters are likeable.  There’s no “good egg” amongst the mayhem who you’re secretly cheering for.  They’re all evil, narcissistic people.  Just when you think you might like a particular character, they’ll do something to quickly change your mind.

The first thought I had as the credits started to roll was – how much of this is true?  Does all this go on behind closed doors without the public’s knowledge?  Is politics really this bad?  Or is this all an over-exaggerated send up?  I don’t know the answer to those questions and that kind of scares me.

It’s a film which will keep your attention but I tired of the offensive conversations.  It’s as if the screenwriters were engaged in contest to see who could come up with the most insulting one-liners.  Yes, I chuckled at times but they were too “over the top” and detracted from the story.  Will people remember this film more for its political insight or more for its coarse language?  I hope it’s not the later because it does have some interesting things to say.