SYNOPSIS: The US President and UK Prime Minister fancy a war, but not everyone agrees – including US Army General (Gandolfini) and junior British minister Simon Foster (Hollander). When Foster accidentally announces on national TV that "war is unforeseeable", the government is sent into a spiral of chaos and spin propagated by verbosely aggressive communications director, Malcom Tucker (Capaldi).
If rude, crude and extremely filthy language bothers you in any way, then stop reading now and go here. Otherwise, welcome to the big-screen debut for British government spin doctor Malcolm Fucking Tucker and his foul-mouthed friends.
In The Loop is a spinoff from the brilliantly clever BBC political satire The Thick of It, which aired for just one series in 2005 and a pair of specials (and, we hear on the grapevine, will be back for another series later this year). It was easily the sharpest peek down the corridors of power since the days of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, and creator Iannucci was widely praised – deservedly so – for the way he managed to capture the cringing reality of politics while making audiences laugh till their sides split (well, mine did). So the cinema, and In The Loop, was the next logical step. The plot is fairly straightforward – Britain and the US are preparing to invade an unnamed Middle Eastern country. And, er, that's about it, really. Yeah, it may not sound all that funny, but make sure your bladder is well and truly empty before you enter the theatre.
The adjectives have been flowing thick and fast among the critics – witty, acerbic, virtuoso, cynical, aggressive, profane, outrageous, offensive – and In The Loop lives up to them all. It's a political farce that proves what we've always known – politics is full of bumbling fools whose greatest skills are at pulling the wool over the public's eyes. And this film's greatest asset is that it feels all-too-scarily real, thanks to some recent government scandals that are mirrored in several scenes. It's never named, but we can all see clearly that the film is based on events that led up to the Iraq war, and it's shockingly easy to believe that this is really what went on behind the scenes.
A few of the characters return from the TV shows – Capaldi's Tucker, of course, Paul Higgins as his equally abusive assistant, Jamie, and stand-up comic Addison as political advisor Toby Wright. The new cast all slot in brilliantly though, particularly Hollander as the bumbling but basically honest minister and Gandolfini as the anti-war US general. The performances are all first rate, the direction note perfect and the script one of the best to come along in years. Some people have questioned whether In The Loop belongs on the big screen rather than television, but just goes to prove that you don't need a massive budget and big-name stars to make a brilliant piece of work. If it's not the funniest film of 2009, it's certainly the current frontrunner.