Taking its cue from the political and social furore surrounding the current War on Terror that’s limping on in the Middle East, Armando Iannucci satire In the Loop presents a deeply funny but frankly, rather terrifying look at the build up to the conflict, starting with an accidental comment from a British cabinet minister and ending with a vote to invade Iraq.
When the new Secretary of State for International Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), lets slip in a radio interview that he believes war is unforseeable, he incurs the wrath of apoplectic communications chief Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) who instructs him to tow the party line. In attempting to rectify his mistake, however, Simon utters the phrase ‘Climb the Mountain on Conflict’ on national TV, and soon becomes an unwilling poster boy for the pro-war effort. Sent to America to gather information, Simon soon finds himself in the middle of a tug of war between those who want peace, including General Miller (James Gandolfini), and those who want to bring out the big guns without hesitation.
Shot documentary style, and with a blistering on-the-button script delivered with natural ease by the excellent cast, In the Loop plays out like a skewed fly on the wall treatise on how not to go to war. It’s full throttle from the get go, with Capaldi in particular given license to let forth a volley of cursing that in lesser hands would prove a distraction, but here serves to powerfully underline just how aggressive, ambitious personalities go any lengths to ensure the pro-war argument prevails. Evidence? Just cause? None of it matters when the leader of the free world wants to bear his goddamn arms on the international stage. The fact that Capaldi’s is also a performance of balls-out humour, and he easily has some of the best lines such as memorably comparing Foster to a ‘Nazi Julie Andrews’.
Elsewhere Hollander is both sympathetic and frustrating as the man who finds himself helplessly in the middle of a political tug of war he doesn’t seem to understand, and Gandolfini’s performance as the armchair general marks a welcome return to form for the Sopranos heavyweight. Director Armando Iannucci deserves high praise, too, for giving his cast and his script room to breathe on screen; his directorial touch is light, and there is an air of improvisation and off-the-cuff storytelling throughout that makes the whole thing far more effective.
Not only is In the Loop one of the funniest things you’ll see this year, but it’s also one of the most intelligent pieces of British satire for some time. That you may have to watch it more than once to fully appreciate every delicious moment only adds to its appeal.
Stars Tom Holalnder, Peter Capaldi, James Gandolfini
Director Armando Iannucci
Distributor Optimum Releasing
Format DVD & Blu-Ray
Released August 24