Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) is the British Secretary of State for International Development, a long title that doesn’t appear to mean much. He’s fairly unnoticed in the political world until he makes a fuck-up during a radio show where he says that “war is unforseeable”. His comment rouses officials at both the British and American governments who are gearing up to go into a (fictional yet of course topical) war. They use this naive and horrible public speaker to sew the seeds of dissent for their war, despite poor Simon having no idea what he’s in for. The Prime Minister’s appointed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) is livid, and attempts to shape him into a proper political figure, through the cunning use of screaming and breating.
Simon is helped by his new aide Tobey (Chris Addison) as he heads to Washington to meet with the war committee to help stop it, but ends up only digging himself in deeper over his head.
That sounds horribly boring when I read it. If this were simply a political drama it could be the most cut and dry thing ever- but what makes this such a brilliant film is that it’s an incredibly biting and brutal comedy. The gold here is in the writing.
A followup to the critically acclaimed BBC series The Thick of It, In the Loop is a film that requires multiple viewings. Not in a Lynchian way where the film is so dense that it requires repeat viewings in order to wrap your head around it, no; because it’s just so goddamn funny and the lines come at such a rapid clip that you’ll inevitably be laughing so hard that you’ll miss a few. It’s easily the most quotable and witty film of recent memory, and in this way it’s almost like a British, politically-minded Big Lebowski.
That amount of chuckle-enducing lines is staggering. I’d hesitate to call it an instant classic, but there hasn’t been a comedy that’s been so consistently funny in a long time. Your face will hardly get a moment’s rest.
While it’s a very smart comedy it’s also a fairly vulgar one. I’d hate to be the person that counts the amount of curse words for Capreport- especially whenever Peter Capaldi is on screen. Of a cast packed to the brim with gifted comedic actors, he’s the standout. Every time he appears you’ll sit a little straighter, hoping to catch every syllable of his next brutal, hate-filled tirade. I could watch a movie that’s nothing but him ranting. (Sequel idea?) I would also possibly kill to see a broadcast version of this film, because it would be chopped and mangled beyond belief.
But everyone is on point here. Mimi Kennedy and David Rasche are great as competing forces in the war. Paul Higgins is the angriest Scotsman you’ve ever seen. Steve Coogan shows up as a guy with wall problems. Relative newcomer Zach Woods as a State Department aide is hysterical as a jealous asskisser who loves to give grief to his coworkers. Hell, even James Gandolfini (playing a top US general who’s opposed to the war) gives us plenty of chuckles. In fact, the only dead wood in the movie is Anna Chlumsky who plays another American aide, who despite being cute as hell feels like she’s trying too hard to be funny, outclassed among so many natural comedians.
Of course, underneath all the humor there’s also the horror when you realize that this is how a war starts, that it’s all being propelled along by bullshit and people who are only concerned about their own well being. The satire and the way the situation steamrolls only makes things sweeter.
All that said, I don’t think I’ve stressed enough just how funnny this movie is. In the Loop is required viewing for any fan of comedy, American or British alike.
9.5 out of 10