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Peter Capaldi, left, & Chris Addison in IN THE LOOP (Photo: Nicola Dove/IFC Films)

Directed by
Armando Iannucci
Produced by
Kevin Loader & Adam Tandy
Written by Iannucci, Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell & Tony Roche
Released by IFC Films
UK. 106 min. Not Rated
Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Chris Addison, Mimi Kennedy, James Gandolfini, Anna Chlumsky, Gina McKee, David Rasche & Steve Coogan

The same writing and directing team behind the 2005 British comedy TV series The Thick of It has remained undaunted by changes in presidential administrations or new press wars. Gung ho, they shatter the clay feet of politicians, not only in Britain but now in America, as they fumble towards war in the Middle East. Filmed in the same improvisatory and pseudo-documentary style as on the small screen, this hilarious political satire delights at skewering the very human foibles behind undiplomatic diplomacy.

Peter Capaldi returns from the series as the motor mouth spin doctor Malcolm Tucker, the prime minister’s director of communications, and it’s a pleasure to see him finally as a big screen lead. He’s been a chameleon character actor on British TV comedies and dramas for years, with smaller parts in films, but he’s indelible here, even within a terrific ensemble. Though Americans will see parallels to Rahm Emanuel’s reputation for scatological bullying, his character was reportedly inspired by Tony Blair’s spokesman Alastair Campbell.

One of the joys for an American audience is to hear the macho profanity that was throttled with constant bleeps in BBC America’s cablecast of the series, so no need to have seen that to appreciate his performance. The cursing is so rich, particularly in Capaldi’s native Scottish brogue, that Ian Martin is specifically credited as the “swearing consultant” from “the North of England” (whose own comic background includes a profane web version of House of Commons proceedings).

The scheming politicians, bureaucrats and their junior and senior aides are now conniving to cover their rears on a larger stage, but the rapier wit hasn’t been watered down. Tom Hollander shines as Simon Foster, the nervously befuddled cabinet minister for international development, whose cautious, and comically misinterpreted, aphorisms to the press get the complicated plot machinations rolling. As his ever-networking young aide Toby Wright, Chris Addison plays a similar role like in the series, and he again tends to awkwardly break up with girlfriends and sleep with the opposition while trolling for inside information.

The American cast enthusiastically jumps in with just the right size egos and seriousness to convincingly sustain the amusing paranoia and multiplying misunderstandings on their side of the pond. Mimi Kennedy fits right in as Karen Clark, an assistant secretary for diplomacy determined to get to the bottom of a mysterious Future Planning Committee. General Miller (James Gandolfini) shrewdly allies with her to both defend civilian control of the military and his career.

Back home, representative democracy manages to cut the Brits down to size in the person of a complaining constituent, an almost unrecognizably whining Steve Coogan. This may have been what Churchill had in mind when he defended democracy as the worst form of government except for all the others. Or maybe he meant the most humorous. Clever and laugh out loud funny, In the Loop is the best political satire since Barry Levinson‘s Wag the Dog. Nora Lee Mandel
July 22, 2009



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