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:: In The Loop

The politics and processes involved in the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan following 9/11 were undoubtedly world-changing, serious and controversial ones. Yet somehow, with George Bush and right-hand man Dick Cheney at the helm, the world shook our heads in disbelief that such stupidity and ignorant egoism could be at the helm of such significant, history-making policy.

Set against this backdrop, In The Loop, written and directed by Armando Iannucci, shows the audience what we never get to see, but know is there – the vitriolic back room politics of government PR and media spin. The film is set in the behind-the-scenes havoc of lowly government officials and advisors from Britain and the US, all vying to cement their careers by either supporting the war or preventing it, with no genuine vested interest in either cause, aside from their own personal gain. The characters are self-absorbed, acknowledging others mainly by mocking, humiliating or utterly belittling them.

This comment on petty government relationships is personified in the endless profanity and insults spewing from British Director of Communications Malcolm Tucker ( the brilliant Peter Capaldi ). When he is not opening his mouth to violently threaten someone, he is spitting at them through clenched teeth in a truly memorable performance. The endless and relentless one-liners that come from Tucker’s character - ( “You get sarcastic with me again and I will stuff so much cotton wool down your f**king throat it’ll come out of your arse like the tail on a Playboy bunny”) - make repeat viewings of the film a must and provide the majority of the film’s viciously funny dialogue.

Shot in a style reminiscent of The Office, the film uses the private moments of its British characters to suggest that the UK, upon entering the political world stage during the invasion process, was star struck and dazzled by such heady, superpower politics. Enter Simon Foster, a new British minister who, unexperienced in the doctrines of media jargon and swept up in the glamour of Washington, admits in a radio interview that an invasion of Iraq is “unforseeable”.

By swaying from the UK’s “neutral” stance, Foster is attacked by Tucker- a one-man army, facing imminent cardiac arrest due to his complete and utter lack of patience for bureaucratic stupidity. Flustered, Foster back-peddles in the media, admitting that it may in fact be time to “climb the mountain of conflict”. This move cements his idiocy to Tucker, (“You sounds like a Nazi Julie Andrews!”), but endears him to the Americans, who think his ability to legitimise both points of view are cleverly planned PR tactics, rather than a bumbling attempt to weave his politician’s sword. The fact that Foster is floundering to keep afloat in the vast and wild sea of US military policy, is emphasised by several comedic situations and suggests that this aura of importance bestowed onto the British government was a reason they were so easily pulled into supporting the American invasion.

The juxtaposition of Foster’s political responsibilities back home - being strong-armed over a mere crumbling backyard wall by one of his constituents- and his new found glory in America, highlights how quickly one can be hypnotised by delusions of grandeur.

On top of this are some lovely moments with his equally useless assistant, Toby (Chris Addison). The two spend more time feigning to know what they are doing, than actually doing what they are meant to be doing. A classic illustration of this is when Foster and Toby attempt to attend a meeting in the women’s bathroom and - upon failing - stage a “mock” meeting to furiously debate where they are actually meant to be.

The characters in this film all co-exist in a state of collective panic, mass ignorance and delusional self-importance, which ensures that the film never wanes in its dialogue heavy plot, but captures the skittish and slippery attempts to make the government appear as if they are actually qualified to run the country. It is a great demonstration of how those who are meant to be “in the loop”, can scarily be the ones most kept out of the loop, due to the self-importance blinding them.

DVD Extras

Audio commentary features director Armando Iannucci
28 deleted scenes
Webisodes
Interviews
Madman Trailers