I like the dry humor that comes out of the United Kingdom, especially when it is used to lampoon larger cultures or important issues. This irreverence towards authority ends up creating some pretty amazing satire of leaders and those under them as well as showing how flawed entire systems can be. This film is a critique of the system of the Invasion of Iraq, though it is never so blatant as to call the country Iraq and is more concerned with those underneath the Prime Minister and President, the soldiers making the narrative to war a reality. I’ll go more into what I mean in the assessment.
“In the Loop” was directed by Armando Ianucci who was also one of the writers along with Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche. It was also produced by Adam Tandy and Kevin Loader. It is a spin-off from the BBC Television series, “The Thick of It.”
The film follows different government officials in the US and UK government who are trying to promote or prevent the war after the Prime Minister of the UK and the President U.S. hint that war is coming to the Middle East. The main players being followed Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) who during an interview says that war is unforeseeable, which leads to the Prime Minister’s enforcer Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) telling him to toe the line. From here things unfold as Simon continues to go off script causing more conflict in both the U.S. and UK as parties seek to manipulate Simon to fit their agendas for or against war.
The Pros: The Premise – The world that this exists in is one where there aren’t consequences for breaking the law. In this world the worst consequences come from not towing the line. If you don’t tow the line you will lose your job. The world of “In the Loop” is one where everyone is selfish and only out for themselves and whoever above them they are working for…which ends up making it compelling in a way because it shows how broken the system is. People keep the march to war going because the President and Prime Minister want it, there isn’t any discussion on where and why, much like Iraq…because the ones at the top made the decision, you either go with it or get crushed by the wave. This makes it a great critique of the broken system that leads to so many unjust wars in the modern world.
The Comedy – The comedy is quick, sarcastic and brutal. This is best represented by Malcolm Tucker, who is cursing up a storm most of the times we see him, though the other characters are the same way in their dry wit. It is a lot of fun and the main reason to watch this film beyond the satire.
Liza Weld – Liza is the one who wrote the paper that is being used to go to war and being edited by folks in the UK and U.S. to make it look like it is evidence to go to war, when it is actually against war and has more cons listed than pros. She never gets the chance to stand up for the paper though as she is scared for her job most of the time and has no idea what her boss wants. She is a pretty great character though who manages to outlast the storm. Anna Chlumsky does great.
General George Miller – James Goldifini (of “Sopranos” fame) is wonderful in this role as the concerned but manipulative general who says he’ll stand by Karen and resign with her if the country goes to war, but is later seen to be two-faced when he doesn’t. He’s a calculating personality who doesn’t have fear.
Karen Clarke- Karen Clarke is the idealist with major stress problems. She is the one fighting the war path but loses in the process as the power players in the UK and U.S. work against her, leading to her resignation. Mimi Kennedy does a really good job.
Simon Foster – Tom Hollander (Cutler Beckett in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series) is the ponz who wants to stand up but doesn’t have the wit or brains to play the game. He is as reprehensible as the rest of the characters, as in the end he doesn’t care about the war, only about his position of power but he is fun to watch. He is someone who keeps trying to do something and be someone but in the end is just meat to be used by the much better players of the game. He is forced to resign by Malcolm Tucker at the end because of how he made waves and didn’t toe the line.
Malcolm Tucker – This guy is the biggest dick of the bunch and the funnest to watch. Capaldi is the enforcer and Prime Minister’s fixer which we see is complex as he has to do what the Prime Minster wants even if he’s against it. We see it when he caves to those going to war since war is what the Prime Minister wants and how he justifies it in saying, “It’s complicated.” He’s the corrupt government bureaucrat who knows how to get policy passed and done, even if it isn’t always legal. Peter Capaldi is a master in this role and it was great seeing him in it again.
The Message – Those in power will do what they want, even if lives are at stake with little regard for those underneath them or those whose lives they are affecting. Evidence and facts for the reasons to go to war become second behind the ideology and desire and towing the line becomes more important than transparency or actual justice. We saw this with the Iraq War and all the fake evidence to go as well as the major reason for invading being a lie and there not being any functional or construction of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Okay: The Minor Characters – Some of the minor characters are pretty forgettable. There is the intern who leaks Liza’s paper that is edited and used as an excuse to go for war, this is after he cheats on his girlfriend with Liza. There is his girlfriend who we never get to know, her boss who just likes listening to Opera and a few others. They also capture a bigger issue of everyone being pretty selfish pricks and that never being critiqued or called out.
The Ending – There isn’t much of an arc. The ending shows everything is pretty much business as usual, even if a few people have changed places or are leaving. This could have been powerful if we’d been made to care more about these people or see the consequences of what was to come in some way, or seen how they’d been changed by events beyond just being sad.
If you like political satire, the British Office or Peter Capaldi, chances are you will enjoy this film. I enjoyed it a lot even if I wouldn’t consider it great. It is clearly a spin-off from a show and at times feels like a very long television episode, which brings the quality of it down. It is still worth seeing though. This series also makes me want to see the tv series it came from. If the “Thick of It,” is in any way similar in humor and conflict, I think I’d enjoy it greatly.
Final Score: 8.5 / 10. It’s very good satire.