MOVIE: In the Loop (2009)

Several years ago, a British reader of the Boyfriend of the Week sent me a couple of CDs that contained six episodes of a sit-com she was mad-crazy about called The Thick of It.  Not only did she want me to watch the series and tell her if I liked it, but she was especially keen on one of its stars, an actor and stand-up comedian named Chris Addison.

I watched the first episode with some hesitation, I’ll confess,  because I’d just finished watching the first season of the British version of The Office and didn’t end up loving it as much as everybody seemed to think I ought to.  That is, I didn’t hate it — but. . . meh.  I figured if I ended up not loving The Thick of It either, the entire United Kingdom might write me off at long last.  That would be horrible!  I like the British!  They talk so cute!

Five minutes into episode one of The Thick of It, though, and I was absolutely in love.  The series, about the bumbling spin machines at work behind the British government, was not only one of the most riotously funny things I’d ever seen, but it was absolutely goddamn brilliant to boot.

The problem with the request of my reader, though, was that when I was done with the six episodes she sent, I wasn’t in love with Chris Addison.  I mean, his character Ollie (“Toby” in the movie, but essentially the same guy) is absolutely my type in real life:  a super-enormous, highly intelligent dork.   But the BotW isn’t about real life, it’s about fantasy.  And in my fantasy world, the character for me was definitely going to be Malcolm Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi.   Despite the fact Tucker’s an absolutely vicious bastard, his brutal directness holds the same appeal to me as Hugh Laurie’s Gregory House. I probably think to myself, “SPIT IT OUT, ALREADY” 19 times a day when I’m talking to people, and if there’s one thing I absolutely lack patience for, it’s people who tiptoe around topics.  Drop someone in front of me who not only spits it out, but launches it across the room like a SCUD missile, and I will immediately fall prostrate at their feet like the the penitent Magdalene.

This movie, in case you hadn’t already made the connection, is based on that British series (which, as far as I know, only had the one season, though I heard a rumor from someone today that director Armando Iannucci is planning a second season for 2010).  It features a lot of the same cast, including Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison, but also has a few notable additions, like Gina McKee (better known to some of us as Irene from The Forsyte Saga with Damian Lewis and Ioan Gruffud) and James Gandolfini. The backbone of this movie is about the escalation of the British and American governments towards war in Iraq.  But in reality, this film is a cutting satire about media strategy and political spin, and the dunderheads on both sides who flail around in a sea of absolute nonsense day in and day out.  Oh, yeah, and it’s also about us poor schlubs — the politicians’ constituents — and how very, very unimportant we truly are.

The disaster starts when government minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) says in a radio interview the sentence, “War is unforeseeable.”  Though that line is absolutely meaningless in every way, it immediately sets off a gargantuan mess of frenzy, beginning with Malcolm Tucker blackmailing a reporter into pretending it was never said, and ending with Foster’s flying off to Washington DC to meet with the American government.  There, we get a shot of the spin at work behind the scenes of our own political process, complete with an absolutely spot-on-hilarious subplot involving a secret “war” committee that may or may not have actually existed before the news of its existence was leaked to CNN, and a never-ending stream of jokes about how young most of our political go-to people are compared to their counterparts in the UK (“your f*ucking master race of highly-gifted toddlers. . .”)

I took my husband to see this with me because I knew that as a political news reporter, he was either going to laugh the entire time or get really cranky — kind of a win-win for me in terms of entertainment.   As it turns out, he loved it too, and even laughed out loud when someone in the film referred to “the media forces of darkness.”  I suspect, though he would neither confirm nor deny, that his job resembles this movie a lot of the time.  And you know what else?  He’s totally a Malcolm Tucker.  Which is why we get along so well.

If you’ve seen the film and you’re curious about the TV series, you can find a bunch of it on YouTube.  The first part of episode one is here (for the rest, you’re on your own):  But you don’t have to see the show to appreciate the movie.  If you like sharp political satire, or the hyperarticulate wit of cranky British people, you could not do better than In the Loop.   Except maybe with Yes, Minister, which I hope they movie-ize next for those of us living ‘cross the pond.  Can’t wait for it to come out on DVD so I can turn the English subtitles on — I’m pretty sure I missed at least two dozen snipy insults in “surround bollocksing” due to fast-moving British accents, a fact that will haunt me from now until the day I manage to catch and make note of them all.  F*ckity bye!

[Prequeue me at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre: Comedy
Cast: Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Chris Addison, Paul Higgins, Gina McKee, James Gandolfini, Anna Chlumsky


3 Responses to “MOVIE: In the Loop (2009)”

  1. megwood Says:

    I have been asked to note that Malcolm Tucker/Peter Capaldi is, in fact, Scottish. This is not a correction, per se, as it is acceptable to refer to Scottish people as “British.” However, it is a clarification.

    I have not been asked to note, yet shall note anyway, that I still think he’s da bomb.

    Go see this movie, ya hooligans! Review of “District 9” coming in about 4 hours, by the way. Hold on to your undies!

  2. Trip Says:

    SO looking forward to District 9!!

    Saw Inglourious Basterds today…overall it’s good. Not Tarantino’s best – but taken individually, there are scenes where he’s truly outdone himself. There’s one in particular during the end that’s probably the single most beautiful homage to 30’s and 40’s cinema I’ve ever seen.

    Yet…taken as a whole, it doesn’t quite measure up. Despite what the ads look like, there’s surprisingly little action in it, and the violence, while it’s there and it’s primo QT, it’s…actually kind of subdued compared to his other films.

    And yes, as you may have heard by now, the Nazi colonel Hans Landa, played by Christophe Waltz, is absolutely brilliant – definitely Oscar-worthy. He anchors the movie. Michael Fassbender as the British movie commando throwback is outstanding – he should be a bigger star after this.

    It’s all about the characters, dialogue, and suspense, which many won’t expect. I sure didn’t. There’s quite a bit of subtitles, too, so fair warning.

  3. megwood Says:

    Haven’t seen Basterds yet, but we’re planning to go in about two weeks, so thanks for the heads-up on what to expect! Sounds interesting, though, yeah, not at all like what I would’ve expected from the trailers.

    I just saw District 9 and didn’t love it as much as everybody else seems to have, I will confess. Still really, really liked it, but it’s really predictable, which always bugs me. Great effects and characters, though. I’m hoping to have time to write my review Monday — we’ll see! (Have had family in town the last few days.) Let me know what you think when you see it, Trip!

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