Saturday, September 12, 2009

In the Loop (2009) A Film by Armando Iannucci

Take The Office and Armando Iannucci's In the Loop. Observe the differences. Both are highly satirical looks at the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of seemingly uptight bureaucracies. It's easy to see the striking differences in trajectory though between the two countries they spawn from: the United States and the United Kingdom. There's something more steadfast and direct about the British sense of humor, a unabashed willingness to hit the point on the head that sometimes lacks in American comedy. Iannucci's In the Loop is by no means as subtle as The Office, in the sense that in the latter things are implied and much of it relies on "in-jokes" that warrant a familiarity with up-to-the-minute American culture, but In the Loop is definitely damned funny regardless. In a culture where the Iraq War is treated more often than not in a closemouthed, serious manner, Iannucci, without ever stating what war is being fiddled with, takes a welcome mockumentary stance.

In the Loop propels us into an unfamiliar but in no way unbelievable world of incompetent power-mongers, foul-mouths, and petty competition between a populace of indistinguishable gray-suited government officials. When Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), British Secretary of State for International Development, muffs his words during a radio interview, stating that a war with the U.S. is "unforeseeable", it unleashes the fury of his boss Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), the Chief of Communications. His rude potty mouth and over-the-top bashing of Simon is steadily maintained throughout the rest of the film. Why would Foster say it is unforeseeable when it is neither that nor foreseeable? This misstep introduces a thematic crux of the film: the slippery nature of language and how the public image distorts it to mean something entirely different from its original intention. Upon heading to the U.S. with his partner Toby Wright (Chris Addison) to meet with the UN, Simon continues to falter under pressure, letting more ridiculous comments slip out from between his lips, such as a discussion of a certain "mountain of conflict" that must be overcome. Simon and Malcolm's tensions mount while on the American side of things, the concept of a war planning committee is fumbled around between a Pentagon General (James Gandolfini), a U.S. State Department Official with a bloody toothache (Mimi Kennedy), and Karen's smug colleague Linton Barwick (David Rasche).

When all is said and done however - but in more cases just said - In the Loop's "plot" doesn't matter. All we need to know is that we're watching the tomfoolery of government relations in a situation that dangerously resembles that which triggered the war with Iraq years ago. Iannucci is most interested in extracting the childlike behavior amongst the high-ranking officials, people who are in the vital position of managing nations. They spit on each other, fire low insults, and decide on whether or not they should inflict physical pain on each other despite the consequences that will surely result. With its guerrilla-style camerawork, relentlessly assured and committed performances from its talented actors, and crackling screenplay, In the Loop rarely falls short of nearly tear-jerking laughs. It's by no means a "difficult difficult lemon difficult" film, but it targets an area no one minds seeing satirized with hard-boiled force.

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