In the Loop
Directed by: Armando Iannucci
Written by: Jesse Armstrong & Simon Blackwell (screenplay)
Starring: Peter Capaldi, Chris Addison, Mimi Kennedy, and James Gandolfini
Britain has always been a step ahead of the United States when it comes to comedy. More recently, Ricky Gervais bestowed The Office upon the U.K., and we made a spinoff show to great success. We borrow their premises and develop them into our own context, sometimes losing the laughs along the way.
With In the Loop, though, we find a distinctly British sense of humor unleashed upon the idiots that run both their government and ours. It’s probably unintentional black irony that this blazing, brilliant political satire is in the vein of the distinctly American Dr. Strangelove. That’s the highest praise that could be awarded to satire, and this movie earns it.
With one of the most brilliant, hilarious screenplays in recent memory, director Armando Iannucci crafts a documentary-like comedy about how we got into the mess in the Persian Gulf. No real names are named. In fact, some smart creative liberties were taken, and the film is all the better for it.
An ensemble of wise-cracking characters has been created here, with a comedic cast for the movie hall of fame. Peter Capaldi in particular shines as Malcolm Tucker, the foul-mouthed behind-the-scenes aid to the moronic Minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander). Capaldi spews profanity like it’s an expressionist painting, and on some years would’ve been awarded a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his trouble.
The rest of the cast blends beautifully with this moronic vision. James Gandolfini excels a peace-minded general who believes “At the end of the war you need some soldiers left, really, or else it looks like you’ve lost.”
Also great in this is Mimi Kennedy as Karen Clark, a battle-ready Washington insider willing to keep peace if she has to destroy every one of the generals.
Iannucci has a keen eye, but he lets the source material do most of the talking. The actors are given room to let loose, but he captures the subtle glares and facial gestures that are so keen to British humor. All of the cogs mesh perfectly together because of his direction, but the acting and the screenplay shine the brightest.
The greatest comedies are those that aren’t that funny when you think about how scary they are. This brutally honest, unapologetic satire is one of the greatest denouncements of modern foreign policy because it goes for the kill, and climbs the mountain of conflict with such hilarious bewilderment that you may need to see it again to appreciate how brilliant it is.