Swearwords rat-a-tat at Scarface speed. Insults are tossed about like razorblade confetti.
In The Loop is a smart, outrageous exposé of pillock politicians and their puppeteers, a satire sure to end the year in a two-film race with Brüno for the funniest of 2009.
It’s pretty good then. But what makes TV legend Armando Iannucci’s theatrical bow a debut to remember is that once the laughter stops, it all feels crushingly real. If this is how decisions are made in the corridors of power then, frankly, we’re fucked.
The drama begins in Westminster as Alastair Campbell-like Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) reprimands moronic minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) for saying on air that war in the Middle East is “unforeseeable”. A political storm booms with various hawks and doves on either side of the Atlantic latching onto Foster’s increasingly cretinous statements.
In London, Tucker is top dog, but for In The Loop power is merely geographical and once up against American powerhouses General Miller (James Gandolfini) and Linton Barwick (David Rasche), the bullying Scot is outwitted. He’s a pawn in the superpower’s game. He personifies just how special the US/UK special relationship is.
Fans of short-lived, much-loved TV programme The Thick Of It will know what to expect and in fairness, there’s not much here that’s particularly cinematic. Instead, Iannucci shoots doc-style, allowing the script to bring the story to life. For barbed brutalism in a maledominated world, the film is Mamet-comparable with “It’s important to have some soldiers left at the end of a war, otherwise it looks like you lost” a perfect example of the highly quotable, funny/oh crap zingers.
Cynics will grumble that a plot revolving around allies hurtling toward a UN-dodging war is at least six years out of step, but they’re missing the point. This is about politicians and how, whether under the stewardship of a Bush or an Obama, they’re a dirty, spinning, selfish bunch. In other words, it’s timeless.
In The Loop may have worked equally well on TV, but no rib is left untickled in a quickfire satire that depresses as much as it amuses. Gets our vote.