The lead up to the Iraq war is an emotive subject, but if any man can bring uproarious humour to the whole thing, then that man is In The Loop director Armando Iannucci. The film eschews the obvious targets of the big-wigs of the UK and USA administrations and places us with Minister for International Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), a small-fry Government minister. After remarking on the radio that a war in the Middle-East is ‘unforeseeable’, he is rebuked by the fantastically foul-mouthed Government spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), and pushed around to suit the agendas of the various hawks and doves that begin to encircle him.
The cinema vérité style filming, some characters and the cuss-laden script will be familiar to those au fait with The Thick Of It – Iannucci’s satirical television show, which he describes as a “cousin” of the film. In The Loop is a satire that, despite possessing fairly accessible humour on the surface, lacerates and lampoons its subjects with verve and wit. The figures leading the charge to war are not megalomaniacal madmen. We aren’t invited to despise them or revile them, but almost pity them. Many of them are incompetent, naïve or simply a bit out of their depth. It is this mocking, rather than explicitly judgmental, approach combined with the fantastic Oscar-nominated script that prevents In The Loop from becoming an overtly partisan pastiche.
Rising magisterially above it all, however, is Peter Capaldi’s character of Malcolm Tucker. An Iago for our media-spun era might have resembled the vitriolic Tucker. Manipulating every situation as he wants, the other characters, some unknowingly, all end up as puppets dancing on his strings. Anyone who resists is generally cut down in a simultaneously foul-mouthed and witty tirade. However, this is not cheap school playground swearing. When Tucker turns the air blue, the construction has been given as much thought as any theatrical soliloquy – all down to the script by some of the writers of The Thick Of It and Iannucci himself.
Possessing boundless cynicism, this caustic satire might not be for everyone but not a single performer’s comic timing is off. The excellent cast and support (James Gandolfini as a peace-loving General chief amongst them) delivering the script excellently, and the camerawork and direction lending a slightly worrying air that this on-screen farce might be closer to the truth than we really want it to be…
Best line we can print without swear words: ‘“Climbing the mountain of conflict”? You sounded like a Nazi Julie Andrews!’
Watch this if you liked: Four Lions, Withnail & I, This Is Spinal Tap
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