Wednesday, 29 April 2009

In The Loop - Review

Political satire has been around for decades and found its way into various different mediums within the media, from Newspaper cartoonists or Private Eye magazine to the delightfully hilarious Bremmer, Bird and Fortune or Have I Got News For You, the "great British public" has always took it upon themselves to have had a laugh at the same men they have helped elect into these positions of power. Over recent years however no one has quite captured the mood and tone of the New Labour era quite as well as Scottish born writer/director Armando Iannucci, in the form of BBC Four comedy The Thick Of It where a bunch of useless cabinet ministers are trying to go about their job in the department of Social Affairs while cowering in fear of the head of communications for the British Prime Minister, the surreal and indescribable Malcolm Tucker (clearly "not" inspired by former Blair aid, Alistair Campbell). Spinning off from this very show Iannucci, after a couple of years of trying, has moved into the realms of film for his cinematic d├ębut In The Loop, featuring various actors and characters from the original TV series, including the returning star of the piece Malcolm Tucker.

The plot itself revolves mainly around young minister Simon Foster (played by the evil Emperor Palapatine-esque villain from the last two Pirates of The Caribbean films Tom Hollander) as his political life is spiralled completely out of control when he utters a passing comment to the press regarding a possible confrontation in the Middle East (mirroring the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq back in 2004), from here on he is shipped to Washington along with his personal aid Toby Wright (played by returning Thick Of It alumnae Chris Addison, though I don't get why he can't just play the same character from the TV show...but anyways...) as they attend War committees and continue to deal with American politicians on the same subject. Bizarrely in a comparison to Jaws or The Joker in last year's The Dark Knight, Peter Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker doesn't so much as provide comic relief to already ridiculous situations, instead he pretty much crashes through each scene on a mission of his own like a steamroller or a stampeding rhinoceros, not giving a f**k who he runs over in the process. Throughout the film he becomes a man feared by the British, and underestimated by Americans, eventually playing both of them off each other for his own gain, does he want a war, or does he want peace? We're never quite sure. However after a confrontation with the devious US government official Linton Barwick you can't help but root for Tucker as he becomes the ultimate anti-hero of the piece. Though Foster is probably the film's main focus as the heart and soul of the story, as he is easily mislead and corrupted by outside influences, you feel some what sorry for him as he is also the victim by the film's closing moments, inadvertently plotting his own downfall as Tucker goes in for the kill.

As The Thick Of It was compared to The Office crossed with The New Statesman, the same can obviously be applied to ITL, similar in many ways to the original TV show, the cast provide an excellent comedic performance without trying too hard to make the audience laugh. It's often been said that the Americans themselves can't do satire as well as the British (unless you are Jon Stewart...) but James Gandolfini, Anna Chlumsky (yes! It's the chick from My Girl?! What the hell!), Mimi Kennedy, David Rasche and Zach Wood pull off a tremendous job on the American side of things. In the Loop is probably the best possible example of how ridiculous British/American relations had become during the Blair/Bush era, as the Americans more or less do their own thing, while keeping the British on a short leash or not taken them completely seriously demonstrating the lack of power the British have as a global presence in the 21st Century. Any negative comments? Well though this is meant to be a film, it doesn't feel awfully cinematic and does tend to draw out as a really long episode of The Thick Of It, though this might be a bad thing for some critics, I frankly was far too busy laughing my ass off to really care or notice. To summarise In The Loop is probably the funniest movie I have seen so far in 2009, though if awkward silences paired up with witty dialogue and a couple of screaming angry Scotsmen isn't your thing, then you might wanna stick to Seth Rogen and his lot. Me however, I'm backing Malcolm F**KING Tucker!


See This If You Like*...
The Thick Of It, The Office, Have I Got News For You, Bremmer, Bird And Fortune and The New Statesmen.

*Yes I'm aware these are television programs, but it is more or less a television movie...

Two useless facts you probably didn't need to know about In The Loop but I'm going to tell you anyway...
1 :: Number of swear words in the movie: 257 (averaging 2.4 per minute of screen time)
2 :: Film references used as insults: 28 (first being Harry Potter, last I Heart Huckabees)

In The Loop is out in (most) cinemas now.

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