Saturday, September 12, 2009

Review: In the Loop

* * * / * * * *

Property of The Daily Gamecock


"In the Loop," a ferociously funny new British comedy, is not as much about political misgivings and manipulation as it seems. Its plot focuses on the efforts of various inept British and American politicians trying to both ignite and diffuse a war against an unnamed Middle Eastern country, but the politics are always secondary to the voices and personalities of the film's cesspool of power-hungry and brainless nut jobs.

This is a film about profanity. Writers Tony Roche, Armando Iannucci, Simon Blackwell, and Jesse Armstrong slip just about every variant and incarnation of a multitude of naughty words into the mouths of their fast-talking characters at an unbelievable rate.

But "In the Loop" is not just a mountain of filthy jokes balanced against political banter. The script is intelligent, and co-writer/director Armando Iannucci has a gift for understanding the nuances of speed and cadence in dialogue. The humor constantly sneaks up and surprises, lurching from filth and emerging as gold.

British and American slang clash in a flurry of miscommunication, where warmongers and self-involved pacifists vie for the chance to be responsible for a top-secret military committee.

In a film that almost explodes with great acting and wicked ensemble work, no one is better than Peter Capaldi. Playing Malcolm Tucker, a British political advisor with serious anger issues, Capaldi knows when to stretch his character's broad strokes, making his humor both cartoonish and focused.

The other major standout is American character actor David Rasche, as Assistant Secretary of State Linton Barwick. A calmly spoken man who detests profanity but wants to rally his country to international war, Rasche is exceptional at playing both the fool and the conniver, making Barwick a fascinating political figure.

"In the Loop" comes straight out of British television, taking most of its actors and writers from 2005 comedy "The Thick of It." Mimicking the look and feel of a documentary, the movie was shot on video instead of film and most of the shots are handheld, giving the cameramen the ability to maneuver in and around characters with uninhibited pans and zooms.

The somewhat chaotic filming style, accompanied by edits that try to keep the flow of conversation clear in the more pivotal and cluttered moments, serves to underscore the manic ineptitude of the situation.

"In the Loop" is, in many ways, a great sitcom pushed out to feature film length, but that's not meant as a detriment to the daring bark and bite it hurls at every turn.

This comedy is scabrous and unforgiving, and much more effective when it's less about the politics and more about the slow-cooking crock-pot of foolish vegetables that make up its political minefield.

As political satire, it rather bleakly paints political pursuits as personal battles, where desires for reform only overlap with personal conviction, and the good of the state only comes served with self-satisfaction.

"In the Loop" is quite possibly the funniest movie so far this year, a laugh-til-you-hurt, hurt-til-you're-sore gem that never ceases to amaze at the sheer creativity of its wordplay, or the carefully designed inflections that help propel that creativity into stratospheric heights.

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