In The Loop

Director    Armando Ianucci
Starring    Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Steve Coogan, Chris Addison, James Gandolfini
Release    24 JUL (US) 17 APR (UK)    Certificate 15
4 stars


19th April 2009

In the same way that rock stars watch This Is Spinal Tap and cringe at the accuracy, so must politicians gaze into the mirror of The Thick Of It and recognise elements of the ridiculous that seem all too familiar. Not seen Armando Ianucci's sublime political satire? Click here, wait 1-2 days for delivery and come back smiling after 320 of the funniest minutes of your life.

In The Loop doesn't quite qualify as The Thick Of It: The Movie - it's really more of a sweary parent. Chris Langham is out after his recent misadventure; off the bench comes government minister Simon 'Fluster' Foster (Hollander), who winds up kicking off a shit-storm by babbling that war is "unforeseeable". Bogged in a political mire and shipped to the States by warmongering US hawks, Foster is frequently bailed out by assistant Toby (Addison) and Thick Of It holdover Malcolm Tucker (Capaldi), spin doctor extraordinaire and foul-mouthed corridor stalker from Hell. America doesn't stand a chance.

Tucker, one of the finest small-screen creations in recent memory, eats up his opportunity to spin on a bigger stage. Capaldi chomps through the movie like the shark in Jaws, chewing on Ianucci's inspired script with demented glee, staring into his prey's helpless eyes as he prepares to devour them whole. Based on Alastair Campbell - who has petulantly dubbed the movie "boring" - Tucker is a true screen monster, taking delight in finding the smallest chink in his opponents' armour and swinging at it with a fucking great verbal axe. "Mind the curse words, buddy!" says one US tourist. "Lick my sweaty balls you fat fuck," comes the ten-tonne reply. Smile, you sonofabitch.

With Tucker on the prowl, In The Loop's other protagonists have to be on top of their game: thankfully, this is far from a one-man show. Hollander is superb deputising for Langham, though both of their characters are similar; they're both preening, self-serving buffoons who stumble from calamity to disaster and back again ("I really hope we don't go to war," reasons Foster. "It's bad enough dealing with the fucking Olympics"). Thankfully, he's flanked by Addison's lackey Toby, the closest thing In The Loop has to an everyman.

While war is high on the agenda - particularly when Foster accidentally invents the soundbyte 'climb the mountain of conflict' and is surprised to already find it on bumper stickers when he gets to the US - there is a light-hearted sub-plot involving Steve Coogan's constituent and his mother's collapsing wall. It's a brilliant mix of the sublime and the ridiculous as Foster juggles his responsibilities to the war effort while fielding calls from one angry loner, deftly illustrating how one minor tabloid blip can be enough to uproot a minister from office. "Meeting constituents is a bit like being Simon Cowell," he grumbles, "only without the ability to say 'fuck off, you're mental'."

And yes, the swearing is fantastic. No four-letter word is left unmolested, the majority spat from the mouth of Malcolm Tucker and his Scottish sidekick Jamie. When a paper is leaked, Jamie questions one government official with great malice. "If it isn't Numpty Dumpty," he snarls. "Very funny..." comes the smug response. "I haven't finished," Jamie replies. "If it isn't Numpty Dumpty, sitting on the wall, like a big... leaky... egg... CUNT." Swearing this glorious is big, clever and very very funny.

While Ianucci delivers a fine line in insults, he's still something of an untested film director, meaning In The Loop is never as cutting-edge visually as it is verbally. The off-colour ending, while the right one to choose, isn't exactly conducive to laughs either: it's a little jolt of reality, a reminder that this isn't so much an out-and-out comedy than it is a skewed take on real politics. With bumbling Boris in the London hot-seat and MPs' husbands charging porn to the taxpayer, government is doing a good job of mocking itself at the moment, meaning In The Loop captures the Zeitgeist perfectly - put simply, satire hasn't felt this sharp since BrassEye.

More:  Comedy  Politics  War  Insults
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