Starring: Steve Coogan, James Gandolfini, Gina McKee, Mimi Kennedy, Tom Hollander
Directed by: Armando Ianucci
Rated: R for language
Movie Released: 2009
I’ve always been a sucker for some good old political satire. I think the reason is, sometimes you have to find a way to laugh at the world around you to make sense of it all. If you’re a fear mongering, end of the world nearing, God-fearing, Palin loving, gun toting, Beck watching right wing nut job (somewhat guilty as charged at least in some of those categories), you pretty much spend your existence wearing your tin foil hat and believing that every thing that goes on in the world of politics is part of a massive Communist PR spin job that is occurring behind closed doors. You then subsequently tell everyone you know by writing it on a giant chalkboard and create awesome acronyms!
Oddly enough, if you are on the opposite side of the political spectrum, you too most likely believe that everything is a massive Bush/Cheney/Big Oil PR spin job that is occurring behind closed doors. These people too wear their tin foil hats but it’s to keep the government from stealing their identities with this years version of the Patriot act, while Keith Olberman tells them that Karl Rove is somewhere in an underground bunker plotting to water board a kitten for the mere fun of it. Isn’t politics fun?
In The Loop is an independentnt film by Director Armand Ianucci that tells the all to familiar tale the United States and United Kingdom leading up to the Iraq invasion in this “fictional” telling on how the war was influenced by some of the brightest and most politically inept minds of Brittan and America. This foul mouthed satirical look into the back door dirty dealings of politics leads you down a path of characters you love to hate, characters you just feel sorry for, and even a few that make you wonder how they even manage to get dressed every morning with out dropping the ball.
Hidden amongst this 109 minute display of foul mouthed politics is a dry hidden humor that has it’s shining moments that glimmer. However, these quick satirical jabs are quick and far between. Instead, the film dives headlong into making the characters over the top right from the get go. For example, we have Malcolm, who is the ball busting “Tony Soprano” of UK politics, the Rahm “Rham-bo “Dead Fish” Emanuel -esque character who is played so over the top his character is almost too over blown. And speaking of “Tony Soprano”, we actually have an appearance by Tony Soprano himself, as James Gandolfini makes an appearance as a peace loving General who wants to put the kibosh on the war plans before it even gets off the ground.
Alongside them we have Karen Clark (Mimi Kennedy) as a hard nosed politician with gum disease, hell bent on exposing a secret war committee and bringing it’s dealings to light, even if that means using the likes of a British Secretary of International Development, Simon Foster who’s unfortunate slip of the tongue makes him the perfect press chew toy. While in many ways her character’s goals are somewhat admirable, you have a hard time liking her because of the way she treats the people that she is surrounded by. It’s very hard to really enjoy a film when you’re not sure if you want either side to truly win the fight.
Perhaps the most lovable part of the film is the relationship between the Tom Hollander’s character, Simon Foster, and his intern, Toby (Chris Addison). The two seem to find a way of working very well together on screen and compliment each other very well. Hollander reminded much of a Hugh Grant type character trapped in the political realm in this film. His confused, jumbled innocence made you feel both embarrassed for his doomed character, yet rooting for him at the same time. His partner in crime, his intern, Toby, strives very hard to do the right thing and despite every thing he does- it just so happens that he does the exact opposite. Watching these two try to fit in with the wolves in Washington is like watching a sheep dress up in wolves clothing hoping not to be spotted. All you can do is sit back and awkwardly chuckle.
Many of you may have noted already that I have used the words “foul-mouthed” a few times to describe this film. Now don’t worry folks. Even though I stated in an earlier paragraph that I may or may not be watching Glenn Beck on occasion, I haven’t give into the moral majority yet. A few curse words here or there don’t hurt. The old saying, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me still rings true. However, with that being said I was quite surprised by the thickly piled on slew of expletives that In The Loop contains. It seems as though if you are British in this film, the only thing more prevalent than a bad teeth stereotype is to see if you can use the F word at least 5 times more than you use the word “bullocks.” (My apologies to my U.K. readers out there for the jabs at your culture. Please note the satire in the above sentences, after all this is a review about a piece of satire!) All I’m trying to say folks is, while In The Loop may not have Freddy and Michael Meyers chopping people up on screen, and there isn’t a single gun fired, it’s best not to watch it with the kiddies in the room unless you want them headed off to school calling their teacher and “F*ing ol c**nt” and telling people that everything in the world is “F*ing bullocks!”
Despite many a hidden chuckles and a few lovable characters, jabs at France, and a crazy Scottish press agent “Office Spacing” a fax machine, In the Loop turns out to be a slight bit of a miss. While I enjoyed bits of the film, and think it had some very good examples of satire in it, it is not a film for the masses. In fact, in many ways it’s just not a film I think I can consciously suggest to others as a must see film. In The Loop get points for trying and succeeding on some levels. However, I think the masses will find the film to be 98 minutes of dragging conversations, filled with 7 minutes of dry humor and 4 minutes of credits. Now, I am certainly not saying that my readers don’t and can’t enjoy satire, or don’t enjoy intellectual product, it’s just that I don’t feel that In The Loop is going to be the type of “intellectual product” that is going to resonate with most of them. I’ve certainly seen similar satire done better before with the likes of Barry Levinson’s Wag the Dog, and while In The Loop fed my craving for a satirical flick, it left me longing for something more.