Television-to-film crossovers usually land on the silver screen as more bloated, drawn-out versions of their boob-tube counterparts. But Armando Iannucci’s debut feature In The Loop carries on the staggering comedic traditions of its source material, his critically embraced BBC series The Thick of It, hardly ever missing a step—a nonstop riot of fumbling, ego-fueled, lunatic politicians making wrongheaded decisions left and right, cutting off each other heads in the process.
An English government official (Tom Hollander) unwittingly stands behind a potential U.S.-led war with the Middle East on live British radio, and is then confronted by a verbally aggressive, expletive-spewing communications chief (Peter Capaldi) who demands the clumsy politician and his new advisor (Chris Addison) fly to Washington to make amends with the U.S. State Department for his well-broadcast slip-up. But the State Department has made other plans for the Brit, as the Assistant Secretary of Diplomacy (Mimi Kennedy) and her expedient intern (Anna Chlumsky) hope to use the visiting diplomat as a pawn in their anti-war movement. Soon, a peace-loving Pentagon General (James Gandolfini) becomes involved, momentarily negating the intolerable, steely, war-happy State Department head (David Rasche) from pushing forward his Future Planning Committee agenda (also known as the “secret” War Committee).
Employing similar humorous methods as seen in The Office (stilted awkwardness) and Arrested Development (harebrained absurdity), In the Loop establishes mad-capped Parliament types and U.S. politicians in a world where war is just a game and the players would rather not focus on the fine, minor details like the death of millions of human lives. Possessing immeasurable deadpan gifts, Kennedy endures a profusely throbbing toothache that leads to a riotous, playfully campy bathroom scene with her never-endingly bleeding from the mouth. Balancing a crazed jigsaw of dozens of characters, director Iannucci creates a startling indictment of war-mongering officials whose invaluable lines of communication are suspiciously disengaged, with quick-paced, acerbic dialogue cementing the raucously droll backdrop. Let’s just hope the kids in Washington learn a lesson or two from this portentous, weighty satire.
In the Loop @ the Tribeca Film Festival
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.