January 21, 2009

SUNDANCE '09 REVIEW: In the Loop

In the Loop
In the Loop
Directed by Armando Iannucci
2008, 109 minutes, United Kingdom

A cynical, razor-sharp, truly laugh-out-loud farce about the symbiotic relationship between ineffectual, flip-flopping bureaucrats and the sneaky, petty spin doctors who need them, co-writer/director Armando Iannucci's loosely inspired expansion of his BBC comedy series The Thick of It values and cleverly parodies the power of language (vulgarity, doublespeak, jousting, meaningful ambiguity). A finger-on-the-button chain reaction begins with a single word as the British Minister for International Development (Tom Hollander) accidentally burbles to the media that war is "unforeseeable," much to the chagrin of the PM's foul-mouthed Director of Communications (Scottish scene-stealer Peter Capaldi, whose every insulting rant is a lightning rod for laughter), yet to the delight of those on the other side of the pond with their own pro- and anti-war agendas.

The ensemble of players are introduced when the information affects each personally -- among them a peacenik Pentagon general (James Gandolfini); his ex-lover, the US Assistant Secretary for Diplomacy (Mimi Kennedy); her ambitious aide (Anna Chlumsky); her old college friend, the aforementioned British minister's political advisor (Chris Addison); and the creator of a secret war committee (David Rasche) -- their transitory alliances, double-crosses, pointed media leaks and even sexcapades punctuated with snarky, under-the-breath swipes at one another. The one-liners come so fast and furiously that they won't mean much here out of context ("Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult" and "Like Bugsy Malone but with real guns" had me in stitches), but that's the brilliant and purposeful redirect of Iannucci's satire: while we strain to catch the marginal details and sort out the hierarchic squabbling, a war is being jointly planned by the US President and the UK Prime Minister right under everyone's noses. Dr. Strangelove would surely chuckle.

In the Loop premieres tomorrow night at Sundance (official page), and plays again on Jan. 23, 24 and 25. The film is currently undistributed in the U.S. IFC Films has picked up the film for U.S. theatrical distribution.

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Posted by ahillis at January 21, 2009 11:46 AM


Three posts without any comments? You need to spice things up. Make references to controversial auteurs or nepotism...

Posted by: Anonymous at January 21, 2009 10:37 PM

Ha, that's just (Lars von Trier) how it (Ron Howard) goes sometimes (Bryce Dallas Howard), I guess.

Posted by: Aaron Hillis at January 21, 2009 11:17 PM

I love seeing Peter Capaldi getting out there again. I still have a soft spot for the guy after his role oh so many years ago in "Local Hero." (Remember him? As the soft-spoken Scottish assistant to Peter Riegert who falls for the marine biologist.) Anyway, look forward to this one.

Posted by: Craig P at January 22, 2009 10:07 AM

So looking forward to this. I urge interested parties now discovering Iannucci to check out the surreal and brilliant The Armando Iannucci Show, available on R2 DVD, one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I hear Time Trumpet is also brilliant, but has proved elusive thus far.

Posted by: Doug at January 22, 2009 11:15 AM

Looks like IFC picked it up yesterday.

Posted by: Jason at January 23, 2009 12:06 PM

You're absolutely right, Jason, thanks for reminding me! (And great news, obviously.)

Posted by: Aaron Hillis at January 23, 2009 1:10 PM

This is not yet released in Britain so I haven't seen it but just read several reviews (although In The Thick Of It, this film's parent) is superb, but I am SO glad the writer/director hasn't fallen for the good guy in film/happy ending schtick which a Hollywood studio would have imposed on him (and which would have sacked him for refusing to play ball, which he undoubtedly would). Those of you who have seen In The Thick Of It or know nothing about it are in for a treat. But be warned - the foul language is relentless, although, unfortunately, vital. This is what British politics has been reduced to under our not-so-esteemed Labour Party, although to be fair a great many of its traditional supporters were equally dismayed by the Machiavellian nature it displayed and which is superbly parodied in In The Thick Of It and now In The Loop.

Posted by: patrick powell at April 11, 2009 4:22 AM
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