In the Loop: My Way Or the Fucking Highway

THE FATE OF THE WORLD IS ON THE LINE.

intheloopEvery mild-mannered leader needs a brutal enforcer, a man prepared to walk over corpses to achieve purposes. President Barack Obama has Rahm Emanuel. Prime Minister Tony Blair had Alastair Campbell. Ever since the British comedy series The Thick of It premiered in 2005, the foul-mouthed character of Malcolm Tucker has been compared to Campbell, and the former Communications Director has admitted that there are a few similarities. However, he wasn’t too pleased with this film. Perhaps it got a bit too close to reality for comfort.

One of the British Prime Minister’s closest advisers, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), is listening to a BBC interview with the Minister for International Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander). The journalist soon directs the conversation to a new subject, the situation in the Middle East, where the United States and Britain might engage in a new war. On the question whether or not a war might take place, Foster gives the answer that a war is “unforeseeable”. Since the party line is clear, Tucker immediately has a fit – there may or may not be a war but it is not to be discussed publicly by members of the Cabinet.

Meantime, the Minister is introduced to a new aide, Toby Wright (Chris Addison), who’s dating another aide at the Foreign Ministry. Thanks to that relationship, Toby is able to secure Foster a seat in a meeting between the U.S. State Department and the British equivalent. Unfortunately, Foster manages to screw things up once again. As the march to war continues with help from Tucker and an aggressively stupid U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (David Rasche), a small group of Brits and Americans try their best to present obstacles.

Brash piece of satire
This film is not exactly a continuation of The Thick of It; the themes and tone are similar, and Capaldi appears once again as Tucker, but the set-up is different and some of the cast from the TV show portray new characters. But there is no doubt as to whether or not this is a successful “adaptation” of it; it is a hilarious, brash piece of satire. I may not believe that one of the closest advisers to the U.K. Prime Minister would walk into a meeting with someone representing the U.S. President and immediately begin to insult him with profanity. But considering what we know about the scandalous run-up to the Iraq War, it is very easy to accept the cynical attitude on display here toward the interaction between powerful governments as something not entirely unlikely.

The characters will remind you of kids playing grownups, badmouthing each other, behaving like school-yard bullies… and possessing the intellect of a ten-year-old. In one way or the other, that’s true for Tucker (who gets his way by threatening people), Foster (who’s simply too dumb and indecisive for his position), Toby (who spends too much time sucking up to superiors who don’t deserve it) among others. If you have a serious interest in politics you will laugh and shake your head in disbelief at the knowing dialogue, which is full of the most inventive profanity you can imagine.

The movie was mostly shot with a handheld camera, making you feel like a fly on the wall, listening in on all these unbelievably moronic (and frightening) conversations.

You laugh at the absurdities, but there are moments when the sadness and anger of the concept seep through. The question asked in the end: are you man enough to accept the consequences of your acts and get out of the loop or are you just too fond of the games to do what’s right?

In the Loop 2009-Britain. 106 min. Color. Produced by Kevin Loader, Adam Tandy. Directed by Armando Iannucci. Screenplay: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche. Cast: Tom Hollander (Simon Foster), Peter Capaldi (Malcolm Tucker), James Gandolfini (George Miller), Mimi Kennedy, Anna Chlumsky, Chris Addison… Steve Coogan.

Quote: “Just fucking do it! Otherwise you’ll find yourself in some medieval war zone in the Caucasus with your arse in the air, trying to persuade a group of men in balaclavas that sustained sexual violence is not the fucking way forward!” (Capaldi trying to make the U.N. Ambassador obey him)

Last word: “For some time, I’d wanted to do a funny film. In my head, it was quite clear. I wanted it to be full of jokes, to not get hung up on, ‘We’ve got to inject romance here, it’s all got to get a bit serious for 10 minutes while we worry about whether they’re going to get together or not’. I kind of like the idea of just gags. On the other hand, I wanted to do something where the subject demanded that amount of tension. So along came Iraq, and I thought, ‘Bingo, great.’ I knew I didn’t want to do a film that was set in the buildup to the invasion of Iraq, but I wanted to take all those elements of people not quite being brave enough to stand up and say ‘This must stop,’ or people getting the wrong end of the stick, and how the Brits were sort of sucked in and became slightly starstruck by coming out to Washington. I said to all the cast, ‘Imagine you’re going out to L.A. for the first time. It takes you a while to figure out it’s all just bullshit, and everyone’s not really that interested.'” (Iannucci, The A.V. Club)

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