Monday, 13 April 2009

Film Review: In The Loop

The tradition of movies made from UK TV sitcoms is long and inglorious. Off the top of the head, Dad's Army, Are You Being Served, Bless This House and the On The Buses never really successfully crossed the bridge from cathode to celluloid.

The Thick Of It however, is more than your average half hour sitcom. It is a much more intense, thoughtful and I'm bound to say intelligent proposition altogether. The story line in Armando Ianucci's political satire has matured over its two series and when a cinematic release of the project was announce, there were very few doubts that it would be able to adapt to the big screen. It has the scope, the depth of story and lest we forget, it has Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker, the magnificent, fearsome, Machiavellian spin doctor from the deepest most fettered bowels of Satan's imaginings.

In The Loop represents the next stage of Ianucci's adventure in political satire. The story centres around the machinations of the hawks in the US state department who are trying to instigate a war in the middle east while fending off the doves within their own ranks who are trying to stop them. In the middle of it all is the diminutive, in both stature and presence, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), Minister of International Development for Her Majesty's Government who unwittingly turns both hawk and dove thanks to a succession of poorly managed meetings and press briefings.

Foster and his new advisor Toby played by Chris Addison (who played Ollie in the TV series) is sent to Washington at the request of the State Department and finds himself the poster boy for both camps. James Gandolfini plays, General Miller who thinks war is something that the US military can barely afford. Opposite him is Linton played by David Rache. A psychotic Rumsfeld type figure who is prepared to break any rule and plunge any depths to start a fight.

Eventually, Tucker joins the fray as all parties squabble, scheme, deal and no-deal around a single report that undermines the case for war and the evidence supporting conflict from the mysterious and possibly fabricated Iceman.

In places the film tends to suffer from its grander ambition. Most of the action takes place in true Whitehall farce fashion with people running in and out of offices and buildings. However, at times, you felt the film was restricted by this format and there was a bigger movie trying to break out. With some Hollywood funding, this film could have been a modern day Dr Strangelove.

However, these are only minor issues against what is a triumph for British comedy and political satire. The film features performances of immense stature and gravitas: Gandolfini as the lapsed Patton figure, devoted to his country but baffled by the way it does business; Tucker as the foul mouthed agent of Number 10. A cocaine charged genetically engineered ferret rampaging through the corridors of power on both sides of the Pond causing mayhem wherever he goes. Rache, is superb as the evangelical warmongering nutcase (fans of the 80's Dirty Harry spoof Sledge Hammer will particularly enjoy his performance). The exchanges between the him and Capaldi represent the highlight of a raft of magnificent set pieces in the film which are toe curling, foul mouthed, politically incorrect, appallingly cynical and very very funny.

The film also features a glorious cameo by Steve Coogan who plays a constituency member who's complaint about a collapsing brick wall threatens to not only bring down his mother's greenhouse but an entire Government department. It's Ianucci's instinctive understanding of the political process and how anything can be linked to everything if you are skilled, clever and devious enough that allow him to construct a story that is both unexpected yet inevitable.

In The Loop is released in cinemas April 17th.


P Shaw 14 April 2009 at 10:08  

Isn't it Peter Capaldi who plays Malcolm Tucker. Also I was a bit sceptical about this film because of the UK's long line of rubbish TV based movies. However i then heard that the Americans had wanted to fund it but Armando Ianucci turned it down to keep the project british. I have always loved the brilliant dialogue and over the top, yet strangely realistic humour of the thick of it.

Duffman 14 April 2009 at 17:52  

I have corrected my mistake with thanks to to P for pointing it out. Given what you have said I am sure you will enjoy the film.

Contact SPAOTT

If you'd like to send us your comments, complaints, compliments or if you'd like to write for us, send your message to the following address: spaott [at] the-onion-bag [dot] com.

If you liked SPAOTT, why not try...

Some People Are On The Pitch
Football for the discerning enthusiast, featuring news, nostalgia, trivia - all served up with a decent side-order of humour.

The Onion Bag
Modern-day football shot through a comedy prism. Brilliantly surreal and always cuttingly satirical

SPAOTT Poll: Are the BBC right to axe 'Not Going Out'?

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP