In the Loop
Released January 21, 2010
After the film was over I felt dirty. It was as if all those hours of idealizing the policy makers of The West Wing were in vain. Is this what politics is really like?
The characters of In the Loop, a scathing political comedy, are either selfishly manipulative or clueless. In the former category are Brit spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (played with profane relish by Peter Capaldi) and American warmonger Linton Barwick (David Rasche). In the latter is the bumbling British MP Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), who mumbles suggestive platitudes about a possible war in the Middle East. “To walk the road of peace,” he says, “sometimes we need to be ready to climb…the mountain…of conflict.” This understandably ruffles Whitehall’s feathers, and soon he finds himself a pawn in a trans-Atlantic game to justify a war. Iraq is never named, but the allegory is plain.
Anna Chlumsky (My Girl, all grown up) shows admirable comedic chops as an assistant in Washington who is wooed by Foster’s aide Toby (Chris Addison). And a deadpan Gina McKee plays the British Director of Communications, one of the few characters with a modicum of sense, and hence is always hilariously on the receiving end of Tucker’s venom.
Director Armando Iannucci has adapted his BBC series The Thick of It, drawn upon the zaniness of Dr. Strangelove and blended it with the pseudo-documentary style of The Office to craft one of the most entertaining and timely political satires in years.
It’s also utterly hysterical, with dozens of throwaway one-liners that also offer sly observation. Hollander is a lovable fumbling klutz and a good foil for Capaldi. When asked his opinion in a Washington committee meeting all he can muster is that it is “difficult, difficult, lemon, difficult.” You have to at least admire his honesty.
Born from the Bush era of politics, In the Loop is an apt reminder of how easy it is for those in power to misuse it for their own selfish ends. All those hours of The West Wing may not have been in vain, but even the most idealistic need a reality check once in a while.