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4 reviews, 8 user ratings

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In the Loop
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by Mel Valentin

"The relentless drive to war (all over again)."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 52ND SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "In the Loop," a scathing, scabrous political and media satire from British television veteran Armando Iannucci ("The Thick of It," "I’m Alan Partridge"), centers on the fictitious run-up to the invasion and occupation of an unnamed Middle East country that unfolds with the inevitability of Shakespearean tragedy. Dire, but never dour, "In the Loop" will have politically and media savvy audiences simultaneously laughing and crying at the painful parallels to the Iraq War begun by the Bush administration with the full, unquestioning support of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In Iannucci’s vision, war is both inevitable and unintentional, “A force,” to quote journalist Chris Hedges, “that gives us meaning.”

In the Loop follows Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), the Secretary of State for International Development, moments after he makes a seemingly minor gaffe on a radio program. He says war is always “unforeseeable.” A media and political maelstrom emerges from that singularly bland comment. The (unseen, unnamed) prime minster sends his top political “fixer,” Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi). As conceived by Iannucci and acted by Capaldi, Tucker is a foul-mouthed, perpetually angry, completely amoral political operative. When he’s not disarming anyone who crosses his path with inventive invective, he’s manipulating them into doing what he, and presumably, the prime minister wants. Foster has a hate-hate relationship with Foster’s chief aide, Jody (Gina McKee), and treats Foster’s newest aid, Toby (Chris Addison), with contempt.

When, again, Foster misspeaks in front of a microphone, this time mumbling something about “climbing the mountain of conflict” which reporters and pundits twist into a pro-war stance, Tucker takes his brand of profanity to an entirely new level. The easily befuddled Foster sees his misstatements as grand opportunities to become a major political player in British politics. After meeting Karen Clarke, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Diplomacy (Mimi Kennedy), Foster gets an invite to present his views on the war in Washington, D.C. Toby joins Foster in D.C., where he runs into an acquaintance and one-time lover, Liza (Anna Chlumsky), Clarke’s assistant and the writer of a white paper critical of going to war in the Middle East.

Before long, Foster has made an even bigger mess, becoming an unwitting pawn in a political duel between the staunchly anti-war Clarke, her ally in the Pentagon, General Miller (James Gandolfini), and Linton Barwick (David Rasche), a pro-war assistant secretary. Back home, Foster faces unwanted critical attention from a verbal constituent (Steve Coogan). In the Loop goes from worse to farce, with inadvertent media leaks, the reappearance of Tucker in D.C., shifting political alliances, creepy stalker types, betrayals and counter-betrayals, and a special session of the United Nations Security Council culminating in a fateful vote to approve or reject military force in the Middle East.

The surprises found in In the Loop aren’t in where it ends up (that, sadly, is a foregone conclusion), but how Iannucci and his co-writers get there. Iannucci expertly manages a large, disparate cast of characters and multiple storylines with admirable deftness. Iannucci, of course, harnesses the storytelling skills he’s honed on British television to create a perceptive, insightful, hilarious send-up of the political and media elites who, for better or for worse (often for worse if you’re not a part of either elite) make the life-or-death decisions for entire countries. That In the Loop can be accused of cynicism is a given. The characters Iannucci collects for his grand tragicomedy have real-world analogues (and thus real-world consequences).

Both the prime minister and the U.S. president remain offscreen, their motives unclear, their decisions communicated through the political and military chains of command. They’re aloof, almost godlike figures, holding political careers and lives in the outcomes of their occasional (or, to be more accurate, often) ill-conceived decisions. It’s easy to guess their names (Blair and Bush) and apportion the blame accordingly. More importantly, by not naming the political leaders of both countries, Iannucci is making another, easy-to-miss point, that what happened in the spring of 2003 could happen again, with new, over-confident leaders making the same misguided mistakes. Farce and tragedy, Iannucci seems to suggest, are opposite sides of the same tarnished coin.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=18244&reviewer=402
originally posted: 05/14/09 21:03:50
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2009 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2009 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival of Boston 2009 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2009 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2009 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival For more in the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Traverse City Film Festival 2009 For more in the Traverse City Film Festival 2009 series, click here.

User Comments

6/07/11 millersxing galling invective is rarely so funny as this 5 stars
9/13/10 MP Bartley Capaldi is tremendous, but the film dips occasionally. 4 stars
6/13/10 R.W.Welch Has some good lines, but not very invoving. 3 stars
6/10/10 User Name I'd give it a 4.5, if I could; Iannucci creates a genius satire. 4 stars
1/14/10 Dominic One of the funniest movies of the last 25 years 5 stars
8/30/09 john wow, cleverest ever..smart, lovely characters, mind blowingly funny 5 stars
8/26/09 R. G. Ranade Makes swearing into an operatic art form. 5 stars
7/24/09 Isaac Imnot in the loop 2 stars
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  DVD: 12-Jan-2010


  DVD: 12-Jan-2010

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