In The Loop Armando Iannucci

In The Loop Armando Iannucci
In The Loop is derived from the BBC political comedy series The Thick Of It. Both revolve largely around the machinations of belligerent, profane Scot Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), who happens to be the British Prime Minister's Director of Communications, and as comprehensive a picture of a Type-A management style as anybody put on screen. The film concerns the joint rush to war of the British and U.S. governments, and the terminally hapless cabinet minister, Simon Foster (almost painfully well-played by Tom Hollander), caught in the middle when he blurts out to the media that war is "unforeseeable." An enraged Tucker sends Foster to Washington on a fact-finding tour to keep him out of trouble. Of course, the farcical complications escalate from here, as both countries plunge further into war fever. In The Loop feels like an acrid, nightmarish hangover from the Bush/Blair years, with the well-meaning liberal types bulldozed efficiently by the self-satisfied American neo-cons on the one hand, and the hatchet men of the unseen PM on the other. It's the film's great virtue how harrowingly real it is, and also its curse. As laugh-out-loud-funny as the first half is, when the laughs curdle late in the film, as the stakes are raised and war is imminent, the film's tone wobbles and it's not as enjoyable as it might have been. Central to the film's problems is Tucker. Capaldi sustains his bile-spitting vitriol with amazing nuance and timing, but the character's sheer dynamism makes you root for him past the point where the hatefulness of his plotting becomes apparent. The filmmakers don't know what to do with the moral confusion this generates. Iannucci utilizes the transatlantic comedy aesthetic of shows like The Office, with the laugh lines flying at a dizzying pace, while the camera covers everything in neutral, quasi-documentary fashion. This hectic, cheerfully cynical style precludes deeper feelings, and certainly anything approaching tragedy. So the laughs die off, but the film keeps going, and the downbeat finale fails to resonate as it should. Still, the film is keenly intelligent and biting, and there are many treasurable performances, notably James Gandolfini lending Sopranos-esque toughness and gravity to the role of a dovish general who succumbs, and the great Steve Coogan as a belligerent constituent. The sole extra on the DVD is the film's trailer. Its use of Walter Carlos's synth recasting of "The William Tell Overture" from the A Clockwork Orange soundtrack is an unfortunate reminder of the movie's unrealized aspirations to Kubrick-level satire. (Alliance)