CAPSULE: This film is sort of "The West Wing (East)" meets "The West Wing" as Oscar Wilde might have imagined the meeting. A petty British Minister makes an ill-considered statement in public triggering a comedy of manners in the upper echelons of governments on both sides of the Atlantic. The plot of this film is impenetrable but the dialog is hilarious and comes a staccato pace. This is a comedy of political backbiting, in-fighting, and out- fighting. It is loosely a spinoff of the BBC comedy program "The Thick of It". Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
Loose lips sink political careers and start wars. At this writing the United States has recently seen a political storm over an ambiguous statement that Sonia Sotomayor made several years ago. Frequently an innocent-sounding statement can have serious political repercussions.
At the same time as this controversy raged by coincidence the BBC Films was preparing a feature film to be released about a firestorm of political wrangling following British Minister Simon Foster (played by Tom Hollander, familiar from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN) making a similar gaff. Foster is being interviewed in the media and says that in the current situation "war is unforeseeable." This is a flashpoint of a giant trans-Atlantic incident in both the United States and British governments just at a time when the United States may actually be sliding into a war, possibly in the Middle East. I will not even try to recount most of the plot. It is too complex to relate, but the plot is not really the point of the film.
What is the point is the dialog. This is a common British style of drama. The plot does not have to be going anywhere if the dialog is entertaining, and in this film it is riotous. IN THE LOOP is like and episode of "The West Wing", but with much cleverer dialog. This is what the dialog would be if everyone in government talked in metaphors and had the personality of a viper. Following Minister Foster's inexplicably disastrous pronouncement, the Prime Minister's director of communications, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) flies into action to do damage control. The rings of crisis and political manipulation move onward and outward peppered with betrayals and verbal put-downs.
IN THE LOOP is the brainchild of writer/director Armando Iannucci who also writes or has written numerous BBC series, notably "The Thick of It", which has rapid-fire verbal exchanges of much the same style. The dialog is even slyer but at the same time more believable than that of DR. STRANGELOVE. Notable in the cast is James Gandolfini as an American general who opposes the war. He may be a dove, but his personal attitudes are tinged with Tony Soprano's special breed of menace.
The film has five different writers each contributing gags seemingly assembled in a style going back to Sid Caesar. The writers have honed their talents writing for the BBC comedy series "The Thick of It". They have sprinkled the storyline with tidbits that actually happened in the Bush Administration, but one just hopes that most of this is fiction. Feeding the feeling of impending doom is that on both sides of the Atlantic the staff that are handling crisis and defining policy look barely old enough to have completed college. This may have been an economical move on the part of the filmmakers in that one does not expect a twenty- two-year-old character to be played by a highly paid veteran actor.
What we see is two very confused countries' governments. The British over-extend their metaphors and Americans over-extend their psychoses, and neither has anybody whom you want to trust not to betray you. Like DR. STRANGELOVE I would call it a film of sobering fun. I rate IN THE LOOP a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10. Reportedly story of the Office of Future Plans is true. Dick Chaney set up a committee to plan possible war in Iran and/or Syria. So many people wanted to be on the committee that it was abolished and reformed with a smaller membership.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1226774/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/in_the_loop/
Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 2009 Mark R. Leeper