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'In the loop' was in my top five favourite films of last year. Using characters from the popular BBC series 'The thick of it' mixed with American actors for them to literally go up against including the ever brilliant James Gandolfini (Or Tony Soprano as most will know him!)
The plot is both very simple and incredibly complicated all at the same time, which is kind of the point when dealing with politics and the absurd nature of it. I remember the tagline to the film prior to release was something like 'The US President and UK Prime Minister fancy a war' which of course isn't necessarily the case and not everyone agrees that war is such a good thing. The US General Miller (Gandolfini) doesn't think so and neither does the British Secretary of State for International Development, Simon Foster. But, after the 'foot in mouth' hapless Foster foolishly confuses his words and manages to back military action during a TV interview he suddenly finds himself quite popular in Washington, DC. If Simon can get in with the right DC people, if his entourage of one can sleep with the right intern, and if they can both stop the Prime Minister's chief spin-doctor and undoubted star of the film Malcolm Tucker (an absolutely hilarious and inspried Peter Capaldi) rigging the vote at the UN, they can halt the war. On top of everything else once back home there is the day to day issue of dealing with voters with blocked drains and a man who's angry about a collapsing wall (Steve Coogan)
Tucker is both hilariously funny, extremely abusive and close to being downright scary. He's the kind of guy who if you worked with him you would spend most of your time trying to avoid him. A man on a clear course towards a massive heart attack caused by the immense stress he puts himself under in each situation he finds himself in.
I could literally quote any part of the film because it is so brilliantly written with comedic genius bursting out of every single last piece of it. To take on board every brilliant line takes watching the film a number of times because so many of the characters (especially Tucker) speak so quickly. The one meeting between the two stars of the film always makes me laugh however, so I just thought I'd include that just to give interested people a taster of what to expect should they decide to watch it -
Malcolm Tucker: General Flintstone... Was it you? Did you leak PWIP-PIP?
Lt. Gen. George Miller: No, I didn't leak it. I'm not like some little gay mercenary running around doing other people's dirty work.
Malcolm Tucker: Hey, I'm doing my own dirty work. I'm doing my job.
Lt. Gen. George Miller: I think you're doing Linton's dirty work. You're his little English bitch and you don't even know it. Bet if I came to your hotel room tonight, I'd find you down on all fours, him hanging out the back of you.
Malcolm Tucker: Oh, that's nice. That's really tough talk coming from the Armchair General. Put your feet up on a pouffe and go back to sleep, why don't you.
Lt. Gen. George Miller: Look, Tucker, you might be some scary little poodlef***er over in England, but out here you're nothing. You know what you look like? A squeezed dick. You got a big blue vein running up your head all the way to the temple. See, that's where I'd put the bullet. Only I'd have to stand back 'cause you look like a squirter.
Malcolm Tucker: Have you ever even actually killed anybody? Really?
Lt. Gen. George Miller: Yeah.
Malcolm Tucker: Falling asleep on someone, that doesn't count!
Lt. Gen. George Miller: That's funny. What about you, pussy drip? Ever kill anyone?
Malcolm Tucker: Maiming's what I prefer. Psychologically.
Lt. Gen. George Miller: Yeah? Why don't you try to maim me? I'll hit you so hard in the face you'll be s****ing teeth.
Malcolm Tucker: Go right ahead. I can see the headlines now. "Peace-Loving General Starts Brawl in U.N., Swiss Intervene". I don't know, I'm no expert on spin but that could hurt your career.
Lt. Gen. George Miller: Yeah?
Malcolm Tucker: Right. Do excuse me, I've got to get back to work.
Malcolm Tucker: Don't ever call me f***ing English again.
It's pure brilliance and has more great lines per minute in the running time than almost any other film I can think of. The screenplay was nominated for an oscar and it was also nominated at the Baftas and won awards at the British Independent awards. Capaldi also won awards for his performance as Malcolm Tucker although I think his turn deserves at least a nomination for an Oscar.
No doubt that if you don't like bad language then you probably should stay clear but if you like your humour with a bite and your dialogue laced with wit then this film may well be for you. If you find the idea of an American General adding up how many people are likely to die in a war on a big pink childrens calculator then this is definately for you. political satire at it's absolute finest. Five stars from me.
I recently reviewed the first series of The Thick of It, so thought I should now write about the excellent film that came from it, In the Loop.
In my opinion, The Thick of It is one of the greatest comedies to grace the television screen, and likewise, In the Loop is one of the best British films to make it to the silver screen in some time.
It features most of the same actors as in the series, giving it a nice familiarity, even though most of the actors have taken on new roles. All, of course, with the exception of the brilliant Malcolm Tucker who could never be substituted. As ever, he is portrayed by the exceptional Peter Capaldi who somehow manages to play this monstrous press director in a way that makes the audience feel some sort of empathy for him. His equally horrible and more violent sidekick Jamie McDonald also remains the same character while Olly becomes Toby and the loveable Glenn Cullen becomes an MP.
The plot revolves around the useless Minister for International Development Simon Foster who is played - again superbly - by Tom Hollander. The action kicks off after he says in an interview with Eddie Mair on Radio 4, that "war is unforeseeable" - a quote that gets picked up on and used as ammunition for the beginnings of a war while Malcolm Tucker calls journalists and tells them that although they may have heard it, it never happened.
Things happen far too quickly for the minister to cope with, moving from London to Washington and onto the international staf, with Simon Foster and his hopeless aide Toby, played by Chris Addison, getting in deeper and deeper in a battle of words that will culminate in war.
I was delighted to see that this film stars Hollywood heavyweight James Gandolfini (the scene between him and Malcolm Tucker is immense) and David Rasche who played Sledge Hammer in a 1980s US cop show which was one of the most underrated shows ever on TV!
Just like the series, the film is full of great one-liners, most of them which elevate swearing to an art form. There are some brilliant touches, such as the scene where the minister watches a documentary on sharks in his hotel room, fearful that it will make headlines if he's caught watching porn (and this is before the scandal breaking on MPs' expenses). There are also great turns from all sorts of huge names from Steve Coogan to Gina McKee.
This film stands up to several watches and indeed, I would recommend watching it several times to capture every small nuance (making a cup of tea the first time made me miss Olly's glorious and accidental leak about the future planning committee to the press) and for each one of Malcolm Tucker's quotable quotes which cannot be repeated here on this family website..
In The Loop, spin-off of TV comedy The Thick Of It, didn't get much of an audience when first released at cinemas. It's a shame, because this is the best comedy that Britain has produced in not just years, but decades.
All the ingredients are here: the year is 2003 and political spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (played with violent passion by hilarious Scotch maniac Peter Capaldi) is involved in a tale of political intrigue. Minister for International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) makes a gaffe on live radio, and is suddenly elevated to the status of British ambassador to America. Venturing between London and Washington DC, Foster discovers that evidence may have been fabricated in the run-up to the Iraq War by the British and American governments, and the scene is set for Tucker, Foster and his aide Toby (Chris Addison) to solve the issue via a barrage of sweary and instantly memorable one-liners.
There are two simple things that make In The Loop work: Armando Ianucci's insanely witty script and the film's cast. Capaldi is genius, that is generally accepted, but he is also joined by a cast of bizarre characters (Linton Barwick is one of the best comedy creations of all time) given life by the likes of Addison and the simply fantastic Tom Hollander.
However, it is clear that most of these characters were already made flesh on the page by Ianucci, who delivers a script that is both funny and scary. The political figures in the film are based around real people, actual leaders of two of the world's most powerful countries - including Tucker and the psychopathic Linton Barwick (David Rasche, dead-panning his way to comedy Nirvana) - and the fact that Ianucci makes them so believable and real could keep you up nights.
Ianucci keeps things light, though, with comedy that is simple and - importantly - smart, but not-alienatingly so. There are no gross-out gags here, nor are there any flashy moments - most of In The Loop's best scenes involve a roomful of political ladder-climbers trading insults. One of In The Loop's funniest moments sees Tucker's right-hand man Jamie ("the crossest man in Scotland") destroying a photocopier. This is simple, classic comedy, relying on dialogue and its performers alone and is all the better for it.
I must admit that not every performance is spot-on. In fact, probably the two biggest names in the film, James Gandolfini and Gina McKee, try their hardest and are as impressively naturalistic as the rest of the cast but get very few actual laughs. The film is also very subtle, perhaps too much so for some viewers. You will not understand the plot entirely or get all the jokes on first viewing, that is a guarantee; it's also very likely that some people will watch the film and find the humour so low-key that it'll just pass them by completely.
Still, fans of smart, sweary comedy will love it. Like the best comedies, Spinal Tap, Withnail and the like, you'll be quoting In The Loop's endless vault of dry, acerbic gags for weeks to come.
As most likely mentioned by previous reviewers, In The Loop is a feature length episode of the wonderful The Thick of It. Written and Directed by Armando Iannucci, it is a satirical account of Anglo-American relationships. It satirises the run up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
It begins with a BBC Radio 4 programme talking to the Minister for International Development who says a war in the Middle East is 'unforeseeable'. He then gets a menagerie of verbal abuse from the PM's enforcer Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) telling him that he didn't follow 'the line'. Obviously a confusing thing to be told as the minister did not say anything untoward: a highlight of the paranoia of what the wrong word can start.
This word takes the Minister and his aide to America where it gets jumped upon by the U.S. State Department who start using it in their own memos. The confusion and hilarity continues with more bumbling words coming out of the Minister that end up on motivational posters in U.S. State Department.
This film shows the sheer craziness of international politics and how most leaders and higher powers wing their way through. Iannucci researches properly so you can be sure that a lot of the things that happen in the film will have some semblance of truth surrounding them.
The main turn off people might find is that this is a film based solely in dialogue. There is little to no action. The dialogue is generally spattered with sever cases of swearing which for the faint hearted when it comes to foul language, they should avoid this film like the plague.
Extremely funny film which you'll be quoting over and over again: definitely a film with a line for any occasion, an idea embodying the film itself.
In the Loop
This is to all intents and purposes a big screen outing for 'The Thick of It' the exceptional BBC series following events of a political outlook in Westminster.
Directed by Armando Ianucci and written by him too with help from Simon Blackwell and Jesse Armstrong one of the writers of Peep Show. This is a high brow comedy which has elements of farce but requires a high level of concentration and the ability to withstand an incredible level of thought provoking and inventive swearing.
The film is loosely based on reality, as we follow the American President and British Prime Minister who plan to start a war which isn't viewed as necessary by many and want to spin it to their own advantage.
There is a strong anti-war movement and this is aided by the hapless British Minister for International Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) who in a soundbite states that war isn't foreseeable, his comments are grasped by all sides differently, to the anti-war protesters he is a valuable campaigner and spearhead of their movement, to the governments of UK and America he is a Politician who they have to get onside to move forward with their plan, in essence he's out of his depth and just said what he thought to a journalist, at this point the British Government send in their best spin doctor, the formidable Malcom Tucker (Capaldi) to take control of this situation and get Foster onside.
The film then follows Foster as he travels to Washington to meet various spin doctors and military and follows the integral part he is presumed to play in any war. The film takes on an almost old fashioned quality at this point as confusion and misunderstanding create an atmosphere where nobody quite knows what is happening.
Will Foster stand tall and use his influence to stop the war or will the promise of power and responsibility push him to push forward an idea he is none too comfortable with?
Peter Capaldi ... Malcolm Tucker
Harry Hadden-Paton ... Civil Servant
Samantha Harrington ... Malcolm's Secretary
Gina McKee ... Judy Molloy
Tom Hollander ... Simon Foster
Olivia Poulet ... Suzy
Chris Addison ... Toby Wright
James Smith ... Michael Rodgers
Zach Woods ... Chad
Mimi Kennedy ... Karen Clark
Anna Chlumsky ... Liza Weld
Enzo Cilenti ... Bob Adriano
Lucinda Raikes ... Reporter
James Doherty ... Reporter
David Rasche ... Linton Barwick
I really liked this film on a number of levels as a comedy it is laugh out loud on so many occasions, it is typical Ianucci with wonderfully witty and incisive political commentary melded to strange wordplay which fans of 'The Day Today' and 'Alan Partridge' will recognise. I found the film really translated well to the big screen and the character of Foster is played well by Hollander who gets the right level of smug, self righteousness and confused prole as the hapless politican.
Peter Capaldi is excellent as the ferocious Malcolm Tucker and puts himself into his role with gusto. Being honest you shouldn't watch this with the kids unless you really want to add 5 or 6 new and slightly unwanted words to their vocabulary as the F word is used without fear and with wonderful abandon. The cast is strong all round with Chris Addison again playing a cocky minature Spin Doctor whose own life helps to balls things up further for his country and boss as he sleeps with an American Spin Doctor and passes on some British secrets in the process.
It was good to see Anna Chumsky from My Girl in it, as I had presumed Child Actors either went into rehab or got their own reality television shows!!
Overall this is a smart, incisive comedy which parallels the political landscape of a few years ago wonderfully, the writing is sharp and cutting, the acting is desperate and effective and the laughs are free flowing. Despite the language and the complicated political landscape in many ways this reminded me of the old Ealing Caper films as the plot unravels and the twists and turns fly in thick and fast.
Watch out for a diverting cameo from Steve Coogan as a gentleman who is upset with Foster because of the state of his mothers wall, he is a nice welcome break from the ensuing chaos and gives a real idea of the issues MP's really have to manage as well as the larger more current issues.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film, it is something I can watch again and again and that doesn't happen often.
The DVD is £4.99 in Amazon or £2.13 through Marketplace, this is great value and this is a wonderful introduction to the characters and the writing and direction of Ianucci before plunging headfirst into the mad world of 'The Thick of It'.
The cast of Armando Ianucci's excellent BBC satire 'The Thick of It' make it to the big screen and are joined by a bunch of Hollywood stars.
The story revolves around young MP Simon Foster and and ill advised comment made during a radio broadcast. This comment goes against government policy and unfortunately leads him into the firing line of Malcolm Tucker as played by Peter Capaldi. Those of you who have not seen the 'Thick of it' may want to pay a visit to youtube and find 'Tucker's Law' which will give you an idea of what to expect.
At the same time, a senior US state department official seizes on Foster's quote and uses it to try and stave off an impending declaration of war bu the US and the UK. Foster, played by Tom Hollander, is forced by Tucker to visit the US and try to reinforce the goverment line while denying his own comments. Predictably this doesn't work out as Foster and his hapless aide Toby manage to dig themselves into deeper and deeper trouble by the soundbite.
As mentioned previously, there is a great American cast, specifically James Gandolfini of 'Sopranos' fame and delightfully myself, Inspector Sldge Hammer himself, David Rasche.
The beauty of this film, and equally 'The Thick of it' is that the comedy comes from so many situations you see on the news. Bearing in mind the current political situation ,you find your self desperate to know exactly how it will play out when Armando Ianucci gets his hands on it.
The rumour is that MPs and government officials hate this film. When you watch it, you'll understand why. If there was ever a film that was so well written that it really did portray the government as it really is, then this is it. It takes all the smiles and truth that government is supposed to offer, leaving them in the gutter. Instead, you see government for what it can be. A lumbering giant that makes deals with anyone, will go back on those deals and is entirely two faced.
The US and UK want a war. However, it's not so easy, as not everyone in the government is for the war and thinks that it's a good idea. (Look for references to Iraq). US Army General Miller thinks it's a bad idea, as does British MP Simon Foster. But when Simon Foster accidentally backs the war, he suddenly finds himself being sent to the USA because he has made friends in the government there. Realizing he doesn't want the war, he tries to stop the vote by slowing down UK spin doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi, who steals this film with his acting), by releasing information his entourage found out by sleeping around, and by hiring and firing people left right and centre. By the end, Foster is completely disillusioned as Malcolm walks over him, and event the US General who was against the war is now for it so he can save his job.
This film must make government officials cringe, and it should be watched by everyone just so we all know how bad government can be, and how low they will go to get what they want.
Just watched this today and absoluteley loved it! For anyone who has watched an episode of The Thick Of It (Armando Ianucci's inspired political satire) before this was, for me, all the joy of that, stretched out to a feature length production. In that sense this was a joy from start to finish. Watching Malcom Tuckers rantings, none of which can likely be repeated here, could keep me happy for days. Here we not only get PLENTY of him but even better get some classic scenes in which Tucker squaring off against his American counterparts seems to have possibly met his match in foul mouthed-ness.
I should mention the plot. It revolves around the cross-atlantic political manouverings of a cast of politicians gearing up for the US invasion of some unnamed place (though clearly they are talking about Iraq here).
If that sounds dull, it doesn't matter one jot. The plot here is (and has always been in the Thick Of It) second to the brilliant dialogue and general air in insanity as we are shown how ridiculous politics really is behind the scenes.
This had me cackling for pretty much the duration and I would strongly recommend anyone, Thick Of It fan or otherwise to check it out.
In The Loop is a 2009 film directed by Armando Iannucci and a spin-off from the BBC Television series The Thick of It. With a US led war/intervention looking increasingly likely in the Middle East, the British Minister for International Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), makes some rather confused and ill-judged comments about the chances of conflict in an impromptu interview that are picked up on by a visiting delegation of officials from Washington. The hapless but ambitious Foster and his geeky young assistant Toby Wright (Chris Addison) are soon whisked away to the United States where they become pawns in the increasingly farcical battle between the political factions deciding what to do next. Hot on the tail of Foster and Toby is the foul-mouthed government spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) who - much to his annoyance - soon finds that the Americans have not bothered to leave a seat at the top table empty for him...
Based on a BBC comedy that I've never quite got around to watching, In The Loop is sort of like a political version of This Is Spinal Tap with an anti-war message and general sense of the absurd that is reminiscent of Kubrick's Dr Strangelove, which was clearly an influence here. It plays for a while a little like a posher, more smug version of The Office but the laugh quotient and the film in general picks up when the British characters must travel to Washington in an attempt to influence matters. There is soon some great stuff when this happens. Foster and Toby's childish glee at being whisked through customs and given a modest motorcade and Tucker's indignation at having what he presumed was an important meeting and finding a solitary US official who looks about 15. "Is this it? No offence son but you look like you should still be at school with your head down a f*****g toilet."
The beaurecracy and confusion of this insider world is amusingly conveyed with characters often having no idea which room a meeting is in or even when a meeting has actually ended or started. Art meets life when Foster laments the fact that he can't watch an adult channel in the hotel for fear that it might show up on his expenses - and this according to Iannucci was written well before the whole expenses scandal broke and engulfed Westminster. It's interesting watching In The Loop and thinking about how it reflects the current state of affairs. Foster at first seems unrealistically dim and ordinary to be a Minister of some sort but then, when you think about it, this is exactly the kind of careerist pip-squeak berk that flourishes in British politics today. Gordon Brown's comical team is full of these makeshift nobodies to pad out the numbers, especially since James Purnell triggered a wave of resignations the night of his failed coup attempt.
The film probably belongs to Peter Capaldi who brings an enjoyably foul-mouthed energy to the action whenever he appears as Tucker. He's given an extensive and constant array of inventive insults to let fly with throughout In The Loop. "Climbing the mountain of conflict?" he booms at Foster. "You sounded like a Nazi Julie Andrews!" The big famous guest star, James Gandolfini as General Miller, seems slightly ill at ease as if he isn't quite sure what he is doing here or what film he is in. He does have a few funny scenes thrown his way though. Working out troop numbers on a toy computer that makes beeping noises in a child's bedroom - "Twelve thousand troops. But that's not enough. That's the amount that are going to die. At the end of a war you need some soldiers left, really, or else it looks like you've lost" - and a verbal slanging match with Tucker which has a great closing line that leaves the General completely confused and befuddled.
The Americans seemed a little less interesting to me for some reason on the whole although David Rasche is excellent as a seen it all before super calm Policy Secretary who isn't the least bit impressed or intimidated by Tucker. He presides over a gaggle of alarmingly youthful whizz kids who Iannucci manages to glean some good jokes from. "You know they're all kids in Washington? It's like Bugsy Malone, but with real guns." The so-called special relationship, which is well and truly dead with the aloof and apparently Anglophobic Obama in the White House, is also gently mocked in the film. The Americans are only interested in the British here because they think they can get something out of it.
In The Loop also has a subplot of sorts where Foster and Toby are comically irritated and badgered by a constituent who pesters them with complaints about his elderly mum's garden wall being constantly on the verge of falling down. I quite enjoyed the depiction of a tedious constituency surgery in some draughty old hall with these posh politicos struggling not to patronise the great unwashed. "So what are we going back to, apart from a nice cup of tea and some knife crime?" says Foster as their sojourn in Washington draws to a close. Steve Coogan as the grumbling constituent is a trifle broad perhaps but I started laughing the moment he appeared with a woollen hat and a tache. This sequence reminded me of reading the Alan Clark diaries, with voters and constituents generally seen as an annoying, boring distraction that takes one away from the limelight.
On the whole this is sharp, amusing stuff although it probably takes a little while to get going and get into if you aren't very familiar with the television series. The film looks great too at times - on what presumably must have been a fairly modest budget - with some lovely shots of London in the sunshine and leafy Washington streets. In The Loop is a funny and clever satire that fans of Armando Iannucci will certainly enjoy.
Although I have never actually seen the TV series of 'The Thick of It', I was still drawn to this, effectively the big screen version, by many favourable reviews. However overall I found it just ok, certainly not worthy of the platitudes showered upon it by many.
The storyline revolves around a government minister whose appearance on a radio show catapults him into the spotlight after he seems to back an unspecified war which both his PM and the American President are keen on. This sets off a chain of events which eventually lead him all the way to the UN, where the eventual vote will be taken.
The film is a fairly obvious dig at the events surrounding the invasion of Iraq in search of the infamous WMD, and unsurprisingly none of the many 'politicians' who appear in it escape with any credit for their actions - they are universally portrayed as back-stabbing, obsessively self interested and in some cases halfwits. There are some amusing lines (and a huge amount of swearing from a couple of characters!), but I am not sure whether the whole thing really works as a full-length movie as opposed to a series of TV episodes - it certainly does drag in places.
It is also worth bearing in mind, in case you don't read the box carefully before you buy/rent it, that this is a very specific subject matter and not necessarily the sort of thing that would have all generations laughing at the annual family gathering! If you enjoyed 'Yes Minister', like 'The Daily Show' with John Stewart and often have a titter whilst leafing through the pages of 'Private Eye', this may be for you. If you have never heard of any of the above, or have done and did not really get what all the fuss was about, steer clear!
In the Loop is a feature film, created by the team behind the BBC2 political satire 'The Thick of It', directed by Armando Ianucci and starring Peter Capaldi as the inestimable Malcolm Tucker, this is definitely the best British comedy in many years, but then I guess the closest competition has been Kevin and Perry go Large, Alien Autopsy with Ant and Dec or Lesbian Vampire Killers.
Its hard to summarise the plot of In the Loop, in essence, a potential war is brewing between the UK, America and a middle eastern country, the British Home Secretary, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) makes an inopportune statement on the radio explaining that in his view the war is 'unforseeable' his words are twisted by the media and upset the governments main adviser/Spin Doctor, Malcolm Campbell (Peter Capaldi) who sees this statement as a tragedy for the government and goes into damage limitation mode, farce follows as Foster is invited to the US to discuss his comments on a US government war committee and also with an American anti-war minister and army general, his comments are confused by both sides to meet their own ends and the film follows the machinations of civil servants on both sides of the atlantic and most especially Tucker who has his own agenda with the Americans.
Peter Capaldi ... Malcolm Tucker
Tom Hollander ... Simon Foster
Gina McKee ... Judy Molloy
James Gandolfini Lt. Gen. George Miller
Chris Addison ... Toby Wright
Anna Chlumsky ... Liza Weld
Enzo Cilenti ... Bob Adriano
Paul Higgins ... Jamie MacDonald
Mimi Kennedy ... Karen Clarke
Alex Macqueen ... Sir Jonathan Tutt
Johnny Pemberton A.J. Brown
Olivia Poulet ... Suzy
David Rasche ... Linton Barwick
Joanna Scanlan ... Roz
James Smith ... Michael Rodgers
Well if track records were anything to go by with greats from Steptoe and Son to Morecambe and Wise bombing on the big screen, the translation of this BBC comedy wouldn't work, but by using the Iraq war as a template and with the current media interest in spin and counter spin, allied to a sharp script and top notch acting this is a clever incisive comedy which is much better than any political satire made on either side of the Atlantic in many years.
Tom Hollander as the hapless government minister has the right mix of pompousness, self belief and innocence, his comments are twisted at every stage making him a main player who is merely a puppet of the ridiculous number of advisors around him.
Chris Addison reprises his role from In the Thick of It as a sarky advisor to the minister, he is brash, sharp and weak in equal measures, the sub-plot of his romance and leaky demeanour after a few drinks is very amusing.
James Gandolfini as an American Dove, a General who doesn't believe in the war is amusing, he has a complex about how many men he has killed and is bemused by the ridiculous spin and counter spin around him, but does he have the cojones to stand up for what he believes in or will his own media image mean he has to tow the party line?
Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker is exceptional, in some ways he has had to tone down his viciously funny Spin Doctor for the big screen, he is bullying, cutting and i'm sure in no way based on Alistair Campbell, he is an attack dog, programmed to destroy journalists who write stories against his masters and spin bad publicity into good publicity, his put-downs alone are reason enough to see this film, his profanity levels are exceptional and this is the only time on film i've ever seen vulnerability in the character as he meets his match in his American counterpart.
Alex Macqueen is amusing as the UK Ambassador to the UN, reprising his character from the Thick of It in a different role he is a global player cowed by Tuckers attack dog, there are plenty of the same cast from the Thick of it in different roles playing the same characters and all are brilliant, utterly perfect in their timing and roles.
Steve Coogan is funny as a local constituent of Foster's, whose mother's wall is next to the ministers constituency office, damage to the wall means possible bad press for Foster and as Coogan's character is fobbed off regularly its inevitable that at some point something will give, but will it be the wall?
The film is a huge success, whilst it lacks some of the current relevance of The Thick of It, it does a real job on the Iraq War, using its tale to warn against the power of spin and advisors to take normal negotiations to heightened, almost frenzied levels as people compete to improve their careers through leaks, smears and back stabbing, its a hideous and yet hilarious atmosphere, the camerawork follows the familiar fast paced handheld atmosphere of the series and this works to create a disjointed rushed feeling which fits with the acting and superb script, the script is the key to this film, utterly convincing and totally hilarious the one liners are outstanding and the profanity levels are so high that this film has had huge publicity for it, the swearing is generally relevant although at times its gratuitous...but in a funny way.
In some ways it reminded me of the Peter Sellars film 'Being There' a Savant being hailed more for what he doesn't say than what he does and I think that was the general parable behind this biting satire, I thought this film was well written, well paced and utterly believable whilst being ridiculous to the level of parody.
I enjoyed the film immensely, whilst it is not quite to the level of the tv series, it gave a more global feel to the writing and the comedy was not affected by this, its intelligent, well put together, fast paced and fun, the acting is excellent and the script wonderful, there should be more films like this which challenge viewers and don't feel the need to have to explain everything for fear of being too clever, this is top quality comedy and i'm happy that people on both sides of the Atlantic had the intelligence and good taste to enjoy this film so much.
The DVD is £6.99 on Play.com and includes the following extra features:
- Deleted scenes
In the eyes of his fans, Armando Iannucci and his ever-evolving band of articulate, sweary and subversive political and social satirists can do little wrong. The BBC series The Thick of It, recently enjoying something of a revival and now on its second series, spawned this sharp-tongued farce about the forces that brought the recent/current war in the Middle East to pass. As with its TV companion, comparisons will be drawn with The Office, with its emphasis on foot-in-mouth humour and deadpan, uncinematic cinematography. It brings with it familiar faces and new villains, all muddling along conspiratorially and with varying degrees of competency.
At the centre of the film is an inept British politician (Tom Hollander) whose ill-considered words land him in the middle of the "shall we go to war?" storm. Seized upon and used as a pawn by both sides, the bamboozled chap experiences the American political machine in all its grinding ruthlessness, with Brit colleagues and lackeys along for the ride, all struggling to assert themselves in the face of the infamous "special relationship".
The predictably glorious Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi in arguably his finest role), the spin doctor and ranting verbal behemoth of the TV series, is here in all his sweary glory, terrorising native tourists and young White House hotshots alike while his fellow Scot and psychopath-at-arms Jamie MacDonald (Paul Higgins) holds the fort at home. On the American side Tucker has a suitable match in James Gandolfini, playing an anti-war general who strides about shaking with impotent fury. Chris Addison's junior civil servant is back too, his character bearing a different name but the same flaky, smart-alec guise. His own attempts to further his own career at the expense of others are matched by two warring White House staff who trade insults and backstabs while scurrying around after their masters. Putting it all in bleak perspective is Steve Coogan's angry constituent, hauling the long-suffering Hollander back from his US jaunt to rain verbal hellfire upon him about his crumbling garden wall.
Like The Thick of It, In The Loop succeeds because of two master strokes. Firstly, to take a menagerie of thoroughly dislikeable characters and make us take genuine interest in them. We cringe with them, we cheer at their jawdropping insults, and when it all goes wrong we truly pity them. Secondly, it portrays the staggering disorganisation and flip-floppery of politics with elegant, merciless aplomb, as politicians and their minions hide around corners spying on each other, frantically rewrite the political rulebook and suffer numerous indignities at each others' and their own hands.
Its avoidance of any unnecessary theatricality means it feels less like a film than a fly-on-the-wall excerpt from these characters' lives; anything else would be too far a departure from the style that drew such attention to it in the first place. There is no room here for laboured explanations of everything that is going on; Iannucci credits his viewers with some intelligence, and we're expected to keep up. The themes here are confusion, deception and anti-climax, delivered with humanity and razor-sharp humour that lets no-one off the hook, not even the audience.
***FILM ONLY REVIEW***
In The Loop was released earlier in 2009 as a spin off movie from the TV show The Thick Of It. Directed by Armando Ianucci and starring Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander and Gina McKee among others, it follows the rather hapless Minister for International Development Simon Foster.
Foster (Hollander) makes an inadvertent comment about war being unforeseeable, when the US President and UK Prime Minister are rather fancying a war. To get out of this comment, he inadvertently backs war and finds himself being sent to Washington on a "fact-finding" mission.
The story was not the backbone of this film for me, but rather the characters and political machinations. I've never watched The Thick Of It, but assume this is just like a longer episode of the TV show. The characters are all wonderfully written and acted, and stereotypical. Foster and his team, Toby (Chris Addison) and Judy (McKee), are all very English and slightly bumbling. The Americans see backstabbing, secrecy and betrayal at every turn. And the Scots...well, despite being Scottish I don't think I would be alone in saying that the Scots steal the show.
Peter Capaldi is the chief spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker, and spends his days swearing imaginatively and shouting at people, usually Foster and co. For me he simply didn't have enough screen time - Foster is the main character in terms of the story, but the film is all about Tucker and what he's going to say next and where he's going to appear from to ruin Foster's day. There are numerous shots of him running like a madman trying to catch up with Foster and stop his latest gaff. The film is full of memorable lines from him, but I honestly can't think of one that I could repeat here, they are all very strong swearing!
The other Scot in the film is Tucker's deputy, who he leaves to clear up a mess in London while he goes to Washington. Jamie MacDonald is played by the excellent Paul Higgins, who I enjoyed in the recent BBC drama Hope Springs, but who I can now see was not working at his full potential. The character of MacDonald is introduced by Tucker as "the angriest man in Scotland", and he's not kidding. Tucker seems to have moulded MacDonald in his own image, so the language is just as strong, but MacDonald is even angrier about everything. He breaks a fax machine for fun. Again, I'd love to give you some of his memorable lines but they can't be repeated here.
These two characters don't have a lot of screen time together although they do talk by phone for a while. But they really were the best thing about In The Loop, everything they said and did had me in absolute stitches, and at one point I was struggling to breathe from laughing so much.
As I've said, the story for me was secondary to the characters and the political machinations. The film is of course all about politics, but it's easy to understand, mainly because it portrays politicians as idiots or paranoid. They are all bumbling, unsure and gaff-prone (English), or they are scheming, paranoid and willing to do anything to succeed (American). They are all concerned with being on the important committees, and not just being "meat" in the room, and their main focus is themselves, not those they are supposed to serve, as we see in Foster's scenes with his constituents. As I watched the film I wondered how true to life these characters and their manoeuvring is, but unfortunately I have no idea. I'd like to think people like this don't run the world, but as Billy Connolly once said, "the desire to be a politician should ban you for life from ever being one".
The style of the film is almost fly on the wall documentary type. Not quite, as I thought it was a little more polished looking than that, but it is much more documentary-like than movie-like in style. This adds to the characters personalities as I feel it brings them closer to the viewer and makes them all the more realistic. It also adds to Tucker and MacDonald's manic swearing and chasing people down as there is no Hollywood sheen in between the audience and characters, so they seem all that more crazy for it.
There is very little music in the film, which adds to the documentary style. The only music I can remember is part of the film itself, as one minister plays classical music in his office.
I thoroughly enjoyed In The Loop - I purchased the DVD as a present for a friend, who then invited me to watch it with them, but I loved it so much I'll probably get my own copy. I paid £13.99 on the day of release in HMV, but it is available for £10.98 from Amazon - and worth every penny. I haven't laughed so much at a film in months.
I enjoyed it so much that I'm now off to check out The Thick Of It on Amazon...
Anyone who has seen the television series 'The Thick of It' will find the Armando Iannucci directed 'In the Loop' to be familiar viewing, as it generally plays out like a big-screen version of the once-popular show.
The satirical black-comedy focuses on a plot where the British Prime Minister and the American President consider starting a war in order to 'spin' it to their advantage - or at least I think that's what was going on, as my simple mind lost grip of the plot on several occasions. Unfortunately for the UK and US governments, their attempts fall on stony ground when Simon Foster, Minister for International Development, confuses things somewhat with an unclear statement to the press...
In The Loop is written in a way which suggests that the majority of government ministers are complete idiots, unable to conduct their business without a multitude of mix-up's, leaked reports, and generally scandalous behavior (so probably quite close to real life then!), and it's from this perspective that the comedy stems. Unfortunately, this also means that as a viewer, the characters are somewhat difficult to empathise with, as none of them are the most likeable of individuals.
Filmed in the shaky-camera style, the story is viewed from a documentary approach, giving the watcher a voyeuristic view of the on-screen shenanigans in a similar manner to 'The Office'.
In terms of the performances, the caliber of the acting is very good - Tom Hollander was especially entertaining as the pushed-around Cabinet Secretary 'Simon Foster' who doesn't seem to know if he's coming or going, and would appear to be a pastiche of the generic modern political fool. Most entertaining of all however, is Peter Capaldi's portrayal of the foul-mouthed 'Malcolm Tucker', who probably sets a record for saying the greatest number "F***'s" in a 100 minute film - the Scottish 'Alaister Campbell-alike', has the majority of the movie's best lines, although his character would seem to be incredibly exaggerated and unbelievable.
Although funny, I personally found the film to be dull in places, as there was a general reliance on a selection of sub-characters who were in no way as good as either Simon Foster or Malcolm Tucker. Keep a eye out however for an entertaining cameo from Steve Coogan, which had me chuckling to myself.
In conclusion, I found In the Loop to be a film consisting of a selection of humerous parts which, when put together, seemed to lack a little cohesion. It's a movie which certainly isn't a clever or entertaining as I expected, and left me a little disappointed with its difficult to follow antics. That said, I did have a few decent laughs, and for a comedy, that's always a good sign.
- - - - - - -
Peter Capaldi - Malcolm Tucker
Tom Hollander - Simon Foster
Gina McKee - Judy
James Gandolfini - Lt. Gen. George Miller
Chris Addison -Toby Wright
Anna Chlumsky - Liza Weld
Enzo Cilenti - Bob Adriano
The DVD version of In the Loop can be currently purchased for £10.98 from Amazon.
A review of the Optimum Home Entertainment DVD, which will set you back about £13 at the moment.
The only new comedy series that I've really enjoyed over the last few years has been The Thick Of It, a BBC sitcom made by a Scotsman with an Italian name (Armando Ianucci) and starring a Scotsman with an Italian name (Peter Capaldi). It was about a bumbling cabinet minister, and its notional star was Chris Langham. The real star of the show, though, was Capaldi as the nightmarish spin doctor Malcolm Tucker.
Langham downloaded some things he really shouldn't have, so the series went on hiatus (there is a new series due, without Langham). But this film version, released this year, has unleashed Malcolm Tucker onto a wider stage. In the run-up to a Middle Eastern war, Tucker has to provide the US state department with intel it can sell to the UN to justify an invasion. Meanwhile a bumbling cabinet minister, Simon Foster, puts his foot in it in an interview, and gets sucked into a political maelstrom. You don't need to have seen the series to appreciate the film.
Normally when you see a British comedy made with lottery funding you quite rightly make a mental note to avoid it and simply move on. In The Loop, though, is a seriously classy film that, like its TV version, makes a serious point in the funniest way possible. It exposes the spin, the empty machismo, the self-interest and the hideous weakness at the heart of the Blair government. It's also consistently laugh-out-loud funny - it's like Yes, Minister, only much, much nastier, and with a great deal more swearing.
The wonderful thing about it is that if the emphasis was changed ever so slightly it would be an unbearably intense drama. Ianucci cites Dr Strangelove among his influences, and it has that same quality. This is a subject that isn't funny at all - morally bankrupt governments taking their countries to war on a platform of lies - but turning it into a comedy makes it much more interesting than playing it straight.
It's all shot in the kind of wobbly pseudo-documentary style made popular by The Office. We feel like we're eavesdropping on real environments. The sets are amazing, to the extent that I was very surprised to learn that bits of it weren't shot on location. It looks and feels convincing (although I'd perhaps have expected the US State Department to have slightly bigger offices).
The situations also seem very real. Scenes like the one where a minister tries to convince himself that it's somehow braver to stay in his well-paid job than to resign on a point of principle really strike a chord (I hope Clare Short sees this). It's easy to imagine slightly toned down versions of incidents from the film really happening, and I'd imagine a lot of it comes from real anecdotes.
The acting follows the fake documentary style. The excellent cast includes Tom Hollander as the perpetually confused minister, Gina McKee as his press secretary, and many familiar faces from The Thick Of It, all playing their regular characters, but usually renamed. Chris Addison is particularly good as Toby, the unscrupulous and slightly naive new boy. Paul Higgins is magnificent as Jamie, Tucker's frightening Scottish henchman. Only Steve Coogan feels a bit out of place as a troublesome constituent bugging Hollander.
The Americans are headed by James Gandolfini as an anti-war general. It's strange seeing him in something other than The Sopranos (and especially hearing him without a New Jersey accent). There's a great scene where he and Malcolm face off against one another in a bar, a fat guy and a thin guy hissing at each other with barely suppressed rage (I'll bet that scene was included purely because someone asked who'd win in a fight between Tony Soprano and Malcolm Tucker). Anna Chlumsky is also very good as a junior official, and very cute too. Is it wrong to hope that her career nosedives so she has to start doing porn to pay the bills? Yes, I suppose it is.
But the star of the show is Peter Capaldi. Tucker is the finest comic creation of recent years, a swearing, unscrupulous demon of a man, who obviously relishes every outburst of bullying venom, every misogynistic put-down. Amazingly, he's made human through small details (like the children's paintings pinned to his office wall) and the brilliance of Capaldi's performance. The film never resorts to the kind of maudlin look-we're-sensitive-really moments that made the TV version of MASH unwatchable, but just occasionally you actually feel sorry for Malcolm. Even the most horrible man in the universe has feelings.
Most of the humour is down to the dialogue - there are one or two bits of characters-running-around business, but they're not that funny. Like the series, the film does a great line in bizarre analogies (my favourite was when Malcolm described something as 'lurking outside like a big hairy rapist at a coach station'). There is a lot of swearing in this film (seriously, a *lot*, including the Very Bad Word that begins with a c). But it's so over-the-top that it loses its meaning. And it's damn funny. I loved Gandolfini calling Capaldi a 'poodlef***er', and I really loved Jamie's views on opera ('It's just vowels. Subsidised foreign f***ing vowels'). But if you're squeamish about swearing, obviously don't watch this.
It's not quite as good as The Thick Of It; I don't think the format suits being stretched to almost two hours. That's what stops this from being a five-star film. But what with In Bruges and this, I've now seen two British comedies in the last year that actually made me laugh, and I can honestly say that I didn't expect that to happen.
The DVD has little interviews with some of the cast (not the Americans, sadly) and Ianucci. The same people also do a good commentary on the film, which they obviously enjoy. Best of all, there's almost half an hour of extra scenes that were cut, and they're all funny - for a film to be able to discard this much good stuff is impressive. The edition I got also had some postcards included. I think they're exclusive to HMV, but I wouldn't go out of your way.
You definitely should see In The Loop. It made me laugh so much it hurt a couple of times. Roll on the next series.