More noise than signal

In The Loop

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

On a rough calculation, Armando Iannucci has either involved in around 80% off all the British comedy I’ve liked over the past twenty-odd years. Here he directs and co-writes what’s essentially the halfway point between his TV shows, The Thick of It and Veep, set in both Whitehall and the White House.

Returning from The Thick of It, The Prime Minister’s Director of Communications Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) is called in to carpet Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), the Secretary of State for International Development for straying from the official line during a radio interview on a possible looming war with an unnamed Middle Eastern state, although obviously it’s Iraq. It’s difficult to have some sympathy for Simon, as the government’s position seems to be that conflict is neither unforseeable or foreseeable.

After a subsequent media interview concludes with him unintentionally giving a metaphoric pro-war stance, he’s sent to Washington on a”fact-finding” mission, largely in the role of a useful idiot, along with new special advisor Toby (Chris Addison). Here they bounce around meetings with the likes of anti-war US Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomacy Karen Clark (Mimi Kennedy) and Lt. Gen. George Miller (James Gandolfini), and pro-war US Assistant Secretary of State for Policy Linton Barwick (David Rasche) while displaying their typical levels of awkwardness and incompetence.

No less important is Malcolm’s “dodgy dossier” of dubiously sourced intelligence that supports the case for war which, and as the Chilcot report would seem to suggest, is an almost documentarian look at this obvious nonsense’s real-life analogue.

In the Loop shows a side of the White House machine that’s rarely mentioned, let alone put in film. Shows like The West Wing show one side of the coin, an powerful purposeful executive largely devoted to bettering the world, and even when the White House is on the antagonist side of the coin, they’re ruthless, competent and driven. In the Loop takes that fictional coin away and replaces it with something closer to the truth, and substantially more relatable – a bunch of offices full of people bumbling around doing the best they can in the current situation, which if you’re lucky might look something like a coherent plan when viewed from history’s remove.

If there’s a film with a better grasp of language I’ve certainly not seen it. Vulgar, for sure, but the inventiveness of the dialogue is truly incredible, making this one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen. There’s not a weak link in the fantastic ensemble cast, and despite dealing with what’s essentially the minutiae of the process it ploughs through with such pace that there’s not a wasted second in the piece.

Incredible movie, one of my all time favourites.