In The Loop (2009)


The Academy is wrong most of the time, but sometimes it does a great job of bringing attention to little-known movies; a case in point is In The Loop, which received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay last year. Based on Armando Iannuci’s British TV show The Thick of It, this political farce is, like the show, a satirical look at the corridors of powers. But whereas the show takes place at the fictional Department of Social Affairs, In The Loop takes a wider shot at the political relationships between the USA and the UK and their joint decisions to wage wars against Middle Eastern countries.

When British Secretary of State for International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) equivocally declares in an interview that a war in the Middle East may be unforeseeable he attracts the hatred of Director of Communications Malcom Tucker (the awesome Peter Capaldi) for not following ‘the line’ of the party, and the attention of US officials who want to use him as a pawn on a match played between those who want to start a war and those who want to prevent it.

If backstabbing, hilarious mix-ups caused by miscommunication, general incompetence, manipulation of facts, and power struggles are up your alley, this movie is for you. If you’ve given up trusting politicians and you need to laugh at the world’s absurdity, this movie is for you. In The Loop is a grand satirical look at modern politicians and no one is spared from its poisonous judgement. Everyone has agendas, everyone is a pawn in someone else’s game, and everyone just wants power or to keep their job. No one has moral values, no one will face the party, but if they did, Tucker, the evil master of spin, would unleash a smear campaign so vicious and toxic to destroy their reputation that even Goebbels would consider excessive.

No one is accountable to the public and if some politicians are sacrificed it’s only because the governments need patsies to distract the public from the truth. Incompetents are protected if they’re useful and loyal. Independence of mind is punished. This movie is so wonderfully cynical and amoral. I can’t think of a political movie so unglamorous and hilarious since Wag The Dog.

When you look at the movie, it looks like a shabby, inexpensive thingy without production values. Filmed with a hand-held camera to give it a documentary look, it can’t boast of great sets or cinematography, and the music is barely noticeable. But what it does have is an intelligent screenplay with razor-sharp dialogue delivered by a remarkable ensemble of British and American actors, including James Gandolfini.

But the main reason to watch this movie is for Peter Capaldi’s explosive performance as Malcom Tucker. His foul-mouthed rants elevate obscenity to an art form. Every scene he’s in is a delight because you just know someone is going to get a bollicking. Every once in a while a movie comes out that sets the bar high for creative insults. This is the only movie I know that actually has listed on the credits a ‘swearing consultant’: someone’s job in the world is actually to come up with cool ways of swearing. In The Loop is this century’s Glengarry Glenn Ross and I doubt anything will come close to it in the following years.

Politics is a very depressing topic. It disgusts people so much I know a few who’ve given a pass to a good novel or movie because it deals with politics. And that’s a pity because politics is a fascinating subject, especially when it’s satirised in the hands of intelligent writers such as Iannuci and his team. And the Academy was wrong: In The Loop completely deserved the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Director: Armando Iannuci
Screenplay: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, Ian Martin
Cast: Peter Capaldi, James Gandolfini, Tom Hollander, Mimi Kennedy, Chris Addison, Steve Coogan
Country: UK
Runtime: 106 min

FilmRating: ★★★★½

Like the review? Want the film? Buy it here

  1. Kevin Matthews says

    Oh yes. Best insults ever. I can’t repeat any of my favourite lines here, I don’t want banned haha 😀

  2. Miguel Rosa says

    Do you use to follow The Thick of It? I became a fan after watching the movie, and as good as it is, the show manages to be even better! It’s got some of the best fast-paced witty banter on TV not written by Aaron Sorkin 🙂

  3. Kevin Matthews says

    Oh yes, my good lady and I have the box set (well, it belongs to Kathryn but it’s one that I sit in front of her House and Bones boxsets, haha).

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