Finally, after more than a few disappointing comedies so far this year (like the overrated I Love You, Man and the even more overrated The Hangover), we’ve got a real winner on our hands. In a year like this, to call In the Loop the funniest movie of the year isn’t really saying much, but I assure you that it stands tall among many recent comedies–as well as political films for that matter.
It’s at once hilarious and utterly terrifying as it exposes politicians the world over as the bumbling fools that we all know they are. Sure, that’s no new revelation, but the scathingly smarmy (and I mean that in the best of ways) dialogue and expert comedic direction are what elevate this film to the level of something fresh, fun, and hysterically funny.
This docudrama-style British comedy stars many talented actors that I’ve never had the pleasure of having been exposed to before this. Tom Hollander stars as the British Minister for International Development, Simon Foster, a squirrelly little guy who’s well-meaning but completely inept.
A notch above him is the irate and arrogant Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications, who elevates the role of the foul-mouthed angry boss to new heights. Tucker has a hell of a task in making sure that Foster doesn’t say anything too stupid.
But wouldn’t you know it? He just has. Tucker hits the roof when he hears a radio interview with Foster where he labels the possibility of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East as “unforeseeable” rather than simply flat-out impossible. (This, of course, is after he’s gone on about trying to cure preventable diseases, such as diarrhea—or “ass-spraying mayhem,” as Tucker calls it.)
When Foster tries to clear up this little snafu to a band of inquiring reporters, he stammers like a deer in the headlights and finds himself inadvertently starting a pro-war campaign under the mantra “Climb the mountain of conflict,” making himself sound like a “Nazi Julie Andrews.” To help clear up the confusion, Foster heads to the United States where he meets (and meats) with high-ranking American officials on both sides of the war argument, like Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy), Linton Barwick (David Rasche), and Lt. Gen. George Miller (James Gandolfini).
Of course, In the Loop takes some of the roads you might expect, although often in playful and interesting ways. We’ve got our token ambitious-young-new-guy Toby Wright (Chris Addison) who we spend a lot of time with, but, refreshingly, instead of being the lone voice of sanity in the film, he’s really just as big a scoundrel and imbecile as everyone else—I guess it just goes to show that he’ll go far in this field.
And the chronically belligerent Malcolm Tucker is sort of a familiar role, as well. If you liked what Tom Cruise did in last year’s Tropic Thunder, well, you haven’t seen anything yet. Scottish actor Peter Capaldi brings such a frighteningly real air of “I’m-so-clever” arrogance to Tucker’s rapid-fire rants of fury that he puts Cruise and all other similar performances to shame, mining an actual character out of all that rampant profanity.
You can almost taste his sense of self-satisfaction through the wry smirk on his face when he confronts Foster about his “unforeseeable” quote: “In the words of Nat King-fucking-Cole…unforeseeable, that’s what you are.” And just wait for the scene where he finds himself in a meeting with a White House aide so young he looks like he’s twelve. (Ironically, he’s more capable of keeping up with Tucker’s hostility than almost anyone else in the movie: “I’m 22, but it’s my birthday in nine days. If it’ll make you feel more comfortable, we could wait.”)
Really, the only likable character in the movie (and probably the funniest, as well) is Simon Foster—he reminded me a lot of Zach Galifianakis’s character in The Hangover, only here he can be found in a much better movie (and, hilariously, in a much higher position of power). He tries so feebly to maintain the illusion of alpha male power that your heart just goes out to the poor guy. (His idea of a threat is “I’m just saying I might be forced to the verge of making a stand.”)
It just might be the funniest moment of any movie so far this year when he addresses the United States War Committee–er, “Future Planning Committee,” that is–and finds out it isn’t as “easy-peasy lemon-squeezy” like he thought it would be: “In England, we have a saying for situations such as this, which is that it’s difficult difficult…lemon…difficult.”
The entire ensemble cast is frankly brilliant. Rasche and Kennedy offer up many great laughs, as does Gandolfini who has some quite hilarious dialogue. He and Capaldi go head to head, exchanging barbs in one scene, and you haven’t heard such colorfully foul language since Full Metal Jacket.
Many of the younger players in the film are quite funny, as well, especially Zach Woods, who plays Chad (“How’s it hanging, Chad?”), aide to Kennedy’s character and persistent suck-up to all those in positions of even a shred of power. Steven Coogan also shows up in the film as one of Foster’s constituents, who continually pesters him to fix the crumbling brick wall that’s about to fall on his mother’s garden. (And look for this situation to culminate in the most hysterically appropriate of ways.)
In the Loop is a political black comedy much in the vein of Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. It demonstrates to a tee how everyday we are possibly minutes away from full-scale war because of the mere fact that the people who run government are just as stupid, petty, and juvenile as all of the rest of us. Kind of like Drag Me to Hell, this movie is funny for the exact same reasons that it’s absolutely horrifying. I just hope that, unlike Drag Me to Hell, In the Loop doesn’t go criminally underseen.
Amid all of its biting satire and fierce intelligence, at the end of the day, what makes this movie so good, so memorable, and so damn successful is that it’s quite simply really, really damn funny. It’s a movie that you’ll find yourself quoting and rewatching for years to come. British comedy always seems to have a leg up on America when it comes to genuine wit, and In the Loop has it in boatloads.
All I really wanted to do for my review was to quote this movie to no foreseeable end, but I won’t bore you with my feeble reiterations. Rambling on wouldn’t do any good, anyway. Nothing can do proper justice to these words in quite the way that each delivery and every performance nails every last breath of this movie.
In the Loop is a great and incredibly funny movie about really dumb people in high-up places dooming the world to war just to save face. We have no idea what the outcome of this war might be—no one seems to know or really care (yet)—but we are left with this charming little tidbit from Gandolfini: “At the end of a war, you need some soldiers left, really. Or else it looks like you’ve lost.” Beautiful. Just beautiful.