13 July 2009 | C-Younkin
One of the funnier movies this year
The Big Questions: Can an adult comedy (i.e one without masturbation, anal sex, and talking genitals) attract people during the summer season? Can director Armando Iannucci, known for BBC series "The Thick of It", adapt the series to the screen in "In the Loop"? Does this war-room satire bring anything new to war-room satires?
Tom Hollander (the last two Pirates of the Caribbean movies) plays British Secretary of State Simon Foster, who in a radio interview says that war with the Middle East is "unforeseeable." The statement is enough to send the Prime Minister's chief adviser Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) into hysterics. The US President and UK Prime Minister are keen on a war and Tucker wants to give it to them. In Washington, Deputy Secretary of State Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy) has learned of a secret War Committee formed by Linton Barwick (David Rasche) and she dispatches her secretary, Liza (Anna Chlumsky, yup, from 1991's "My Girl"), to find out everything she can about it. Clarke and General Miller (James Gandolfini) are against the war and are willing to do anything in their power to stop it, even inviting Simon and his assistant Toby (Chris Addison) to Washington thinking that Simon might be usable. Just Simon is a clueless pawn without the slightest idea what he's doing. Other story strands center around an anti-war paper written by Liza, and an affair she has with Toby.
The foolishness of government war-mongering is sent-up well by this profane and viciously over the top comedy. If you've read the several books about the events leading up to the Iraq War, the constant and disconcerting string of manipulation, deception, back-door tactics, and posturing for political career gain, as well as how they all think of it as a game without consequences, incorporated by these underlings won't shock you too much, but the laughs just might. Shot with a hand-held camera that brings to mind "The Office", these people run around like chickens with their heads chopped off (some of which is very hard to even keep track of) trying to win out over the other side. The fast pacing, profanely clever dialogue, and flying insults are relentless. There are references to CNN being the Cartoon News Network, kids just out of college making big White House decisions, a sexual encounter for world peace, and a funny attack on a fax machine. In addition to turning profanity into a bodily function, characters (usually) shout pop culture references (John and Yoko, Kid from Eraserhead), and various other more derogatory names at each other. It's a tad excessive at times, but funny.
Peter Capaldi is the key stand-out in the cast, being the most over-the-top of them all. His obscene and excessively profane performance as the Prime Minister's lead guy is tremendously entertaining as he continues to verbally lay-out anyone he doesn't like or that gets in his way with ridiculously clever barbs. Hollander does well with the role of the cluelessly spineless Simon Foster. James Gandolfini and Mimi Kennedy each give strong performances, and Chris Addison, Anna Chlumsky (its good to see her back by the way), and the rest of the cast do nice work as well. Also look for Steve Coogan in a funny cameo as a "fogged off" Brit complaining about a wall.
The Verdict: While excessive and hard to follow at times, Iannucci, and his three other writers, create an adult satire that, while may not be for everybody, is pretty funny.