In the Loop
Love it, love it, love it and for those of you who are a bit slow — I know who you are; don’t think I don’t — I loved this film. It’s great. It’s fast, it’s funny and it’s so on the money about self-interested politicians, clueless aides, dodgy dossiers and altered intelligence that even Alastair Campbell has said, ‘It all rings so true. I salute all involved.’ Actually, he has said no such thing but you know what? Sometimes I’m in the mood for doctoring the evidence, too. (Not often, and never on a Wednesday when I concentrate on spreading unfounded rumours about people I don’t like, but sometimes.)
Written and directed by Armando Iannucci, In the Loop is, essentially, The Thick of It: The Movie and while British TV comedies don’t have a history of transferring successfully to cinema — OK, before you all write in, apart from On the Buses — this political satire is glorious. There are some old faces and some new faces with the most notable oldie being, of course, Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker; the bullying, raging, psychotic spin doctor who, here, is also foul-mouthed to the point of genius. Indeed, if I were ever to meet a certain Ian Martin (one of Iannucci’s co-writers who is also listed on the credits as ‘swearing consultant’) I would shake him by the hand or, failing that, would probably shove so much cotton wool down his throat it would come out his arse ‘like a Playboy bunny’. Such remarks are possibly a lot funnier on screen than on paper but, still, don’t give me any grief about it or I may have to take your shin bone, ‘break it in two and stab you to death with it’. It’s best you know how things stand.
Although, like the BBC TV series, it’s shot on two cameras so actors can improvise and move at breakneck speed, here the action goes beyond Whitehall to Washington in the lead-up to a proposed US/UK-led war against some Middle Eastern country. (Iraq is never mentioned, and doesn‘t have to be. This is about two countries that happen to fancy a war, whatever.) The plot kicks off when Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), a hapless British minister in some backwater department, inadvertently backs the war on prime-time television, so bringing him to the attention of the mad American neocons and a pacifist General in the big, big shape of James Gandolfini who, at one point, uses a child’s binging, boinging My First Laptop to explain why America doesn’t have the forces for this conflict. ‘Twelve thousand is the number that we could send and we’d expect casualties of around…[boing, bing]…12,000. See, you have to have some troops left at the end otherwise it kind of looks as if you have lost.’ This is savage absurdity on a par with the war room scenes in Dr Strangelove, surely.
The performances are outstanding, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments as confirmed by the fact that I laughed out loud. (Me! The woman whose career has almost entirely been based on bad-humoured sneering!) I particularly, for example, enjoyed Foster’s account of what it’s like to do a constituency surgery — ‘It’s like being Simon Cowell without the ability to say: “F*** off, you’re mental”’ — and the brilliant, skewering of government double talk. ‘Whether it happened or not,’ Tucker hisses at one stage, ‘it’s still true.’
This is great work or, as Campbell puts it, ‘This is the must-see movie of the year.’ He also added, ‘It may even be the must-see movie of the decade.’ Actually, he didn’t say either, but it’s Wednesday tomorrow so I thought I’d get in as much doctored intelligence as I could before I have to switch to smearing. I’m thinking David Cameron has an embarrassing illness and drinks juice straight from the carton, but I haven’t fully made my mind up yet.