In The Loop

Starring Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, James Gandolfini, David Rasche and Anna Chlumsky. Directed by Armando Ianucci
Rated MA 15+ (strong coarse language). 106 mins. 

Even if you are not into political satire, you might well enjoy this fast-paced look at spin, international pressures, civil service activities and inactivities, gossip and rivalries, official bullying and badgering of ministers and their staffs and deals, double deals and deceits between the Americans and the British.  At times, it sounds too foul-mouthed for belief but, since Tony Blair's spin doctor serves as the basis for Malcolm Tucker, played to the hilt by Peter Capaldi, art is imitating Campbell's alleged verbal realities.  Where the insults and four-letter invective are better than mere witless swearing is in their outrageous creativity in imaginative abuse (with a lot of funny movie references).  It may be too much for quieter audiences, but it is often surprisingly and shockingly funny.

Armando Ianucci has a long-standing reputation for this kind of satire, especially with his award-winning television series, The Thick of It, of which this look behind the scenes at Downing Street and The State Department and The White House seems a follow-on.

Ianucci and his several co-writers have written a script then allowed the cast to improvise with new words or with different and sometimes outlandish interpretations.

The trouble with all this is that revelations in recent years will make audiences believe that this is not too far-fetched a dramatisation of what actually happens.  A week before the release of the film, it was revealed that one of Gordon Brown's closest advisers (apparently not unlike the film's overbearing Malcolm Tucker) had sent out emails suggesting obscene stories to use for smear campaigns against the opposition.  The adviser had to resign.  The Prime Minister had to send individual letters of regret to all those named in the emails.

The writers also take their inspiration (not without some desperation about what actually happened in 2002-3) the American collaboration to prepare for the invasion of Iraq, clashes between hawks and doves and the happenstances to a rather dim cabinet minister (very well played by Tom Hollander) with unfortunate sound bytes for the media who tries to veer between both camps by telling the doves he is a 'fake hawk'.

The film moves energetically between London, Washington DC and the United Nations in New York and an expert cast of British and Americans (including James Gandolfini, David Rasche and Anna Chlumsky) brings the characters/caricatures alive.  Eventually, it all just stops, so it is not a plot-driven film, rather a succession of spoofs, parodies and send-up driven film.  At least Sir Humphrey Appleby did achieve something in Westminster despite his devious moves.  His articulate and shrewd observations were literate and literary.  Even though there is a blatancy and in-your-face bravado in In the Loop, it is quite literary in the creative vulgarity department.

Madman  Out January 24

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.


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