January 29, 2010


In the Loop is a creature of odd origin; the film is ostensibly a spin-off of BBC sitcom The Thick of It.  But while the two projects share a number of actors, only one character makes the crossover from series to film.  But my what a character he is!

Peter Capaldi, in a continuation of his Thick of It role as Director of Communications Malcolm Tucker, nearly runs away with the film through a series of foul-mouthed verbal tirades.  He fashions the destruction of souls into an art.

For my review of In the Loop, plus more information on the spring book release of Baby from Eraserhead: The Collected Insults of Malcolm Tucker, hit the jump.

Sadly, no such book is in existence, but it would make a great companion piece Shakespeare’s Insults: Educating Your Wit; the bizarre imagery of “You sound like a Nazi Julie Andrews” rivals that of “Thou goatish fat-kidneyed harpy!” any day.  Each abuse deftly combines esoteric absurdism and audacious vulgarity to provide an instantly quotable collection of derision.  It sounds infinitely better out of the mouth of Capaldi than on this screen, so I won’t list them off here.  But his performance alone is worth the DVD price.

in_the_loop_movie_poster_slice_01.jpgThe film is far from a one man show, however.  The screenplay garnered a fair share of awards attention for writers Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche, and writer/director Armando Iannucci, even winning Best Screenplay from the New York Film Critics Circle.  In the Loop nimbly navigates the farce of an escalating political fiasco, as Britain’s Minister for International Development Simon Foster (Todd Hollander) inadvertently expresses controversial views on the impending war and becomes a pawn of important U.S. officials in the international debate.  The humor is admirably never weighed down by such heavy subject matter (a potential comedic albatross), as so many of the governmental employees are either incompetent or apathetic in their positions of relative power.  Often, In the Loop is a showcase for clever idiots.  The plot is driven by dubious decisions and ambitious failures, but such chaotic misfortune proves to be an endless source of witticisms.

At times it seems that too many characters are capable of the perfect one-liner, but the political arena is appropriate for such nuanced dialogue.  The cast rises to the challenge, though, each carving their own niche within the uniformly wacky brand of comedy.  Aside from Capaldi, standouts include Zach Woods, whose stilted delivery elevates his character’s awkwardly sardonic sense of humor, and David Rasche, whose circular rhetoric aspires to the poetry of a sound byte without any concern for substance.  James Gandolfini, the cast’s biggest name, adapts well to the distinctly British material in one of his first post-Sopranos roles.  His flirtatious banter with co-star Mimi Kennedy crackles; their scenes together provide an emotional center among all the silliness, but at no expense to the laughs.

All in all, there’s a lot to recommend here:  the laugh-per-minute ratio is incredible, yet the film finds time to partake in some fine character work and astute political commentary.  Above all, In the Loop will provide you with enough quotes with which to annoy your friends until May.

Special Features: The bonus section on the DVD features a whopping 28 minutes of deleted scenes, edited together with care into a single half-hour show.  It is a testament to the film’s innate funniness that even in the rejected bits, most of the jokes still land.  Also included is a short behind-the-scenes featurette that aired on the Independent Film Channel, whose IFC films distributed In the Loop in the United States.

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