I am not a Whovian, but yesterday I got to watch all my Whovian internet friends explode with the announcement of the casting of Twelve. And then I realized that I have a review for one of Twelve's films! So congratulations, Peter Capaldi, you get a special post today!
In the Loop
Director: Armando Iannucci
Starring: Tom Hollander, Peter Capaldi, Mimi Kennedy, Chris Addison, Anna Chlumsky, David Rasche, James Gandolfini
My dad likes to tell a story about when I was young and couldn’t sleep. He’s always been a night owl, and when I was but a wee Siobhan, three years old or so, and couldn’t sleep, he’d stay up with me, and more often than not, he’d turn the television to PBS. That late at night, PBS wasn’t running children’s programming. No, we’d watch whatever British comedy happened to be on. My father likes to tell people how he was scared when, as a three year old, I’d be laughing at all the right places during an episode of Monty Python. With such an upbringing, it’s not too much of a wonder that classic Britcoms have been with me for a long, long time. I mention this because I’ve always found British comedies funnier than many American comedies, and In the Loop is no exception. Thing is, though, I think it’s even better than many of its own ilk because it takes the dry wit and black humor and scathingly applies it to the current political climate, a landscape that desperately needs some skewering.
Malcolm Tucker (Capaldi) is a foul-mouthed and ruthless director of PR for the British Prime Minister who has his hands full with slightly dense elected official Simon Foster (Hollander). The problem is that Foster hasn’t toed party lines when it comes to the government’s pro-war position for the impending Middle East conflict, having unintentionally given the press an anti-war sound bite. Things get even more confusing when Foster tries to backpedal but instead ends up providing yet another unintentional sound bite, but this time it’s pro-war, and Foster’s new assistant Toby (Addison) is put in charge of handling the situation. American politicians jump all over Foster’s comments on both sides, trying to leverage him as British support for their arguments. This includes Karen Clark (Kennedy), an anti-war politician, and her assistant Liza (Chlumsky), as well as Linton Barwick (Rasche), who wants war at all costs.
Before getting into the massive political commentary rife throughout In the Loop, I’d like to state that this is the funniest movie I’ve seen in a long, long time. I find a great deal of things funny, but I tend not to laugh out loud all that often. Sometimes my husband thinks something is wrong; we’ll be watching an amusing show, he’ll look over after a good joke and ask, “Why aren’t you laughing?” Just because I don’t laugh at something doesn’t mean I don’t find it very funny. I mention this because when something actually DOES make me laugh out loud, it means I think it’s positively hysterical. And I was laughing out loud throughout almost the entirety of In the Loop. I’m not entirely sure why I’m wired that way, and why so little comedy manages to elicit belly-laughs from me, but I do know that when I come across something that DOES (which, by the way, more often than not is British comedy), I latch onto it like crazy, and I know it’s a good thing.
Mostly improvised from script outlines, the dialogue is rip-roaringly funny. Akin to a British political version of Christopher Guest’s Best in Show, I am always staggered by the skill of people who can make up such incredibly funny lines on the spot. When an angry Scot says of opera “It’s just vowels! Foreign, subsidized vowels!” I lost it. A particular favorite was “Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult,” a line which, admittedly, out of context, probably doesn’t come across as that funny, but one that almost had me falling out of my chair when I first heard it in the film, and then when it was later repeated I almost peed myself.
|I cannot tell you how badly I want this to be Twelve's catchphrase.|
And bringing up more of the comedy, one of my other favorite lines was when Malcolm ended a phone call by yelling “Fuckity bye!” In the Loop has some of the most creative vulgarities I believe I have ever heard. F-bombs are dropped nearly every other sentence – heck, sometimes, every other word, but it’s not just about the swearing. Such massively unique insults are hurled with lightning reflexes, it’s hard not to be impressed. Every character has someone they intensely dislike, and a great deal of the exchanges in the film are these people simply tearing one another down. It would be sad and maybe a bit depressing but for the fact that it’s more than clear that every character has immensely thick skin and knows how to let these barbs simply run off their back. Fuckity bye!
Alright, so In the Loop is the funniest movie I’ve seen since Borat, the film that had me reaching for an oxygen tank. But when that comedy is used to make frightening political commentary, then we’ve really got something. Just like Borat uses its humor to tear down America’s conception of itself, In the Loop rips the political world to shreds. The entire plot is about whether or not a war will be started, but all the action takes place in the world of politics. It’s only mentioned once or twice that the war in question will take place in the Middle East, which underlines the point that this war is not about the enemy. No reason for the war is ever given – EVER – which makes the point that this war is not about a valid motive. But we are constantly given politicians politicking, which means that the grey, unnamed war in In the Loop is entirely and only about politics and people in suit, miles away from any kind of actual conflict.
And what’s truly frightening is that this philosophy feels barely removed from the truth. In the Loop is deathly funny, but also more than a bit scary because it strikes far too close for comfort. The sort of unintelligent double speak, where politicians manage to talk endlessly while saying nothing at all, is all too much of a reality. The behind-the-scenes wrangling, where minutes of meetings are shamelessly altered, where articles are rewritten to only present pro-war arguments, are stomach-churning in how conniving they are, but the scary thing is it feels all too possible. Is this what politics is really like? As sad as it is, I could buy In the Loop as a documentary, a world where no character is pure, where every character is backstabbing and has their own ulterior motives, where each side is ridiculous in their faults. There are no heroes in In the Loop, but there are many villains.
In the Loop is funny, biting, and incisively clever. Like I said, I rarely laugh out loud at comedies, but I did here, and by the end of the film, it had definitely become a bit of laughing and crying mixed together. In the Loop is smart, very smart, and it’s a little sad, if not wholly unsurprising, that I had never even heard of it except for its presence in 1001 Movies. It’s too easy to understand why it didn’t get enough press in America to make its way onto my radar.
I now want to end all of my phone conversations with “Fuckity bye!”
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10