Taking its signature character from what is (in my opinion) the greatest TV show ever made, In The Loop arrived in 2008 to relatively little fanfare. It’s no surprise, really. In these times of Due Date and the Hangover, a film that relied on the boring old world of politics and the actual engagement of the brain was never going to do fantastically. And yet critics loved it, drowning it in a sea of four and five star ratings. There was even talk of Oscars in terms of Peter Capaldi’s incredible performance as the ‘lovable’ spin doctor (although finding a non-swearing clip would be nigh on impossible). In short, I loved every sweary, angry moment, and I would even go as far as to say that this film is my favourite comedy of all time.
It starts, as the title suggests, in the loop. Malcolm Tucker has just heard hapless Secretary of State for International Development, Simon Foster saying that ‘war is unforeseeable’. Not good. We then see chief spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker in action, exploding in a maelstrom of swearing, aggression, threats and violence. Much of the film carries in this vein, with gaffes, cock-ups, mistakes and blunders providing the meat of the plot, and the characters reactions to such things providing the humour.
It is fast paced, requiring constant attention to keep ahead of the rat-a-tat-tat dialogue and blistering plot development. Upon leaving the cinema, you will find that you probably can’t find a synopsis that lasts more than 20 minutes into the film. Don’t worry. I’ve seen it five times, and I can’t either. Instead, this is a film to embrace. You don’t have to be particularly knowledgeable on the subject of politics, but you might find yourself with a sudden interest after watching this.
There is no scenery, no special effects, and no pratfalls. This is a clever comedy, with its heart set wholly on story and dialogue. And it makes for a much more satisfying experience. This is a million miles removed from an Adam Sandler crude flick, or any Jim Carrey rubber-faced effort. It is different, and hopefully it will spawn a lot more films of this genre. It is sublime political satire, something only the British are able to do (although having said that, the American cast in this film are fantastic, playing up to their caricatures and delivering lines with sheer brilliance: look up the ‘unofficially, this is a shoe’ segment on Youtube if you don’t believe me). It is filled with scene stealing zingers and a wonderfully cynical attitude to everything. It isn’t just the most quotable film of the year, or even the decade. The most quotable ever made might just about cover it.
It is dominated by one performance: Peter Capaldi as the legendary, snarling, master of spin, hack, and many other four letter words. He owns this film like he owns the TV series, and he undoubtedly deserved at least an Oscar nomination. He is totally in command throughout the whole film. Everything he says is hilarious, from his sweary first line to his last. He is one of the most compelling characters ever put to film: it’s nerve wracking waiting to see his reactions to situations and what people have said to him.
Perhaps the ultimate appeal of this film is that every character seems real. Despite Capaldi taking up most of our attention, every person gets a chance to shine at some point. Be it the banal bickering between two young American upstarts, or the relationship between Simon Foster and cocky young tyke Toby Wright (Chris Addison), they all convince and all add to the overall effect of literally being in Government, with archetypes that are present in all of our lives.
Perhaps the ultimate irony in this film is that the two leaders (of England and America) both want a war, even though we clearly see the blood, sweat and swearing put into the prevention of it by everyone, namely Malcolm. The Americans are seen as being either anti-war hippies or complete war mongers -there is no middle ground. And everyone in Britain agrees that it is a very bad idea -there is almost a Dr Strangelove feel to the conclusion. And as political satires go, to be compared to Dr Strangelove is very high praise indeed.
- Building on a billion views | prize-winning JPC Film - February 10, 2021
- LGBT+ films and more | Iris On The Move 2021 in Plymouth - February 9, 2021
- Two Short Nights film fest from the comfort of your own home - February 2, 2021