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In the Loop (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

In the Loop

IN THE LOOP (2009)

Starring Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Gina McKee, James Gandolfini, Chris Addison, Anna Chlumsky, Enzo Cilenti, Paul Higgins, Mimi Kennedy, Alex Macqueen, Johnny Pemberton, Olivia Poulet, David Rasche, Joanna Scanlan, James Smith, Zach Woods and Steve Coogan.

Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche.

Directed by Armando Iannucci.

Distributed by IFC Films.  106 minutes.  Rated R.

We would like to believe that the men behind the scenes in the corridors of power know what they are doing.  After all, they are responsible for wars and our own personal well-being.

Of course, recent history has given that hope some serious reservations.

In the Loop may very well be the most cutting political satire since Dr. Strangelove – and that is some serious praise.

Serious and completely deserved praise.

This British import, which includes a strong cast of American and British character actors, seems all too realistic for comfort.

Because, according to In the Loop, most politicians are either remorseless bullies or ineffectual do-gooders.  Some are both.  Everyone is out to cover their asses.  The truth is not nearly as important as the spin.  Simple word choice can cause shockwaves of panic amongst staffers.  Rationalizations for war can be made up of whole cloth.  Little things like political decorum and parliamentary procedure are antiquated concepts.  Men who have never known war are more than happy to sacrifice others to it.

In the Loop is rather obviously loosely based on the US invasion on Iraq in 2003 – though the country being invaded is never specifically named.

The title is somewhat ironic.  Though this film looks at the corridors of power in both the US and England – politicians, diplomats, the military – and it seems that no one truly knows what is going on from one moment to the next.

One low-level British cabinet member (Tom Hollander) causes an international rift when in a television interview he says that war in the Middle East is “unforeseeable.”  This causes a flurry of activity behind the scenes.  The pro-war and anti-war forces behind the scenes both assume that he is on their side and suddenly he has been thrust in the middle of a political quagmire that includes a hostile director of communications (Peter Capaldi), a chicken-hawk in the US State department (David Rasche), a peace loving staffer (Mimi Kennedy) and a general who actually understands the cost of war (James Gandolfini).

While the politics of the film is sobering, the dialogue is stunningly, pointedly funny.  In the Loop has too many quotable one-liners to count.  Every character here – good, bad, well-meaning, evil, able, incompetent – all of them are extraordinarily pithy.

Standout performances – amongst uniformly good ones – include former child star Anna Chlumsky (My Girl) as a cabinet assistant who has authored a paper explaining that going to war has almost no positives but is afraid that the paper is career suicide, the cabinet member’s new assistant (Chris Addison) who is smart but more than happy to throw his coworkers under a bus when it helps his career path and Rasche as the smug architect of the conflict.

However, as good as they all are, the film is nearly stolen by Capaldi as a spin artist of stunning deviousness and with a nearly awe-inspiring mastery of profanity.

In the Loop is so laugh-out-loud funny that it is possible to forget how horrifyingly realistic it is as well.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 All rights reserved. Posted: September 22, 2009.


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