British comedies tend to be one of two things. Parochial fare that even I have trouble getting, despite living in the country next-door to Britain. Or else rom-coms that even the most effeminate male will have trouble mustering a chortle to. But occasionally, they get things right. And when they do, the results are often fantastic. Enter Armando Ianucci, one of the co-writers on Alan Partridge (which, if you haven’t seen or even heard of, close this page down immediately and seek it out). His 2005 sit-com, The Thick Of It was critically acclaimed but seen by few, and I must admit I’m one of those that missed it. God bless downloading. In The Loop is a companion piece to the series and it was released earlier this year.
British Minister for International Development, Simon Foster makes a gaffe while on national radio. He says that a war, which the British PM and US President are currently secretly pushing, is ‘unforseeable.’ While this may seem trite, it doesn’t tow the party line, and the Director for Communications, Malcolm Tucker marches in to sort the mess out. Little known to either men, US Assistant Secretary of State, Karen Clarke plans to use Foster as a meat-puppet to stop the march to war. And so begins the satire of Anglo-American politics in this modern day.
What is most apparent from the start of In The Loop is the frankly shocking amount of profanities. While this may offend some, the profanities are so vicious, cutting and inventive, that they end up leaving you laughing your arse off. In The Loop is one of the finest comedies I’ve seen in quite a while. But it’s not just down to profanities. That’d be a stupid reason to like a film. But not an unforgivable reason!
The performances in the film are all fantastic. The stand-out performance is from Peter Capaldi. He plays Malcolm Tucker, one of only two characters who makes the transition from The Thick Of It (although a great many of the actors in the film were also in the series as different characters). Tucker is one of the nastiest, most cruel characters you’ll ever see on screen. And his abrasiveness makes him highly watchable. Tom Hollander plays the hapless and Simon Foster, literally a puppet to all those around him. He’s pathetic and useless and Hollander carries this very strongly. His scenes with Capaldi are a vicious version of Laurel and Hardy. James Gandolfini is on the American side, as Lt. General George Miller, a man who has seen war and wants to do everything in his power to prevent further war unless absolutely necessary. Unfortunately he has only one scene with Capaldi, but it’s memorable.
It’d take forever to give everyone kudos for their performances, as they’re all equally brilliant. But a cameo by Steve Coogan in particular is a lesson in comedy performance. It’s a highlight. Ianucci’s script is the star of the film, and it’s to his credit that he gets such brilliant performances out of the actors delivering his lines. In The Loop is one of the best comedies of the last few years and well worth seeking out. With the new hope politics in the US, it may seem that the film arrived a little late, due to it’s savage cynicism. But in spite of this, the film is still outstanding. At this moment in time, it’s by a long shot, the comedy of 2009.