Tribeca Film Festival: IN THE LOOP Review
Having not seen The Thick of It, the television show that co-writer/director Armando Iannucci’s In the Loop (2009) is a continuation of, I must admit that it was refreshing to see a dense war farce that pokes fun of the bipolar nature of the verbal ties that bind the US and English politicians in the current war in Iraq. Iannucci presents the film’s pre-war climate as a war of words exchanged in either diarrhetic rants or violently blunt accusations. You can guess which side chose which as their weapon of choice, right? Guess again.
In Iannucci’s film, the Brits are the ones with their motormouths stuck on automatic fire while us yanks have a fine, though perverse, way with words. The fray in In the Loop is joined when Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), the British Ministor of International Development, blurts out that “war is unforeseeable” on the radio. As far as instances where saying nothing damning is an incendiary act in-and-of-itself, Foster’s slip-of-the-tongue is right up there with any of Chauncey Gardener’s choice words. His inadvertent refusal to “walk the line” as Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), Foster’s boss and the PM’s key PR man, publicly and brutally insists on, sparks an international feud that eventually forces him and his loyal but equally befuddled intern Toby (Chris Addison) to become pawns in a game orchestrated by American war hawk Linton Barwick (David Rasche) and pro-peace American State department rep. Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy).
Through this densely plotted scenario, Iannucci and his four co-writers take a swipe at everyone within striking distance, both the people that thought that committing political hara-kiri was the best offensive play and the pro-war lobby that manipulated the ephemeral hard data needed to delay the war. The Brits likewise, no matter how much more congenial they look by comparison, are a boy’s club that laughs off or stares down women, younger politicos and anyone else that fucks with them. With expert comedic timing, the zings and barbs rocket back-and-forth at the speed of spite and no good deed goes unpunished by film’s end. As far as feel-bad comedies about the war go, this one is really unmissable.
At the same time, the film is a bit broad at times in its approach to the war. Having come so far in this war and having been so disillusioned, Iannucci’s revisiting the formative days when prevention was still an option should have more bite but sadly it tries not to. He tries very hard not to launch attacks specific enough to criticize anyone but general types of politicians. As a result, In the Loop’s major players aren’t big enough to be recognizable as effigies and in a comedy that dares not even name the place where war is being waged, that lack of specificity appears to be borne out of fear instead of comic efficiency. As a farce, the necessity to reduce the recognizable to the grotesque is understandable but in this case, it would’ve been nice to see more than just a dribble of blood drawn.