I’m not a particularly political person. That is to say, I’m not a political person in any imaginable sense. While the Obama stickers I have plastered all over my car and laptop computation device make an undeniably impressive statement, they are there not because of my bleeding heart liberal passion, but rather because I was too lazy to remove them after receiving both the car and the computer as hand-me-downs from my tree-hugging younger brother.
I do, however, know funny (a fact confirmed indisputably by the Tri-County High School Class of 2003, who voted me the “funniest” graduate of our 53 member graduating class), so I think it certainly deserves noting when I say the new British political ensemble comedy In The Loop is as funny a movie as I have seen in several years.
As U.S. and British government forces are planning to invade an unnamed Middle Eastern Country, mid-level British official Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) mistakenly claims war to be “unforeseeable” in a radio interview. This slip-of-the-tongue enrages some of his colleagues, and gets him unwittingly put in the middle of both British and American political forces on both sides of the war issue.
In The Loop, a spinoff of the British series The Thick Of It, is shot in a sort of mock documentary (or as I like to to say “mockumentary”) style which gives it an effectively authentic feel. I’m generally not a person who desires to be a “fly-on-the-wall” during closed-door governmental meetings, but if the discussions were as consistently amusing as they are in this movie, it may be enough to peek my interest in the political process.
The pacing of this movie is break-neck, with jokes flying from all angles of the screen, often times at a rate so fast you hardly have time to acknowledge them. The conversational flow is so smooth and real it almost plays as if the dialogue is improvised. The fact that it wasn’t is a great testament to the work director Armando Iannucci, and his four co-writers who made a consistently hilarious and realistic dialogue-based comedy, which is considerably harder than most people understand.
The performances are all consistently good. Aside from former Sopranos star James Gandolfini, who’s very funny as an American General, there aren’t many actors who will be instantly recognizable to most American audiences (though fans of the movie My Girl may be surprised to see the girl who played Vada is apparently still acting). Hopefully that will change, as there isn’t a single bad performance given from the cast of dozens.
I especially liked the work of Zach Woods. Woods, who some may recognize from his role as the young Sabre executive on the smoking crater that is The Office, is pitch-perfect as Chad, an obnoxious suck-up Washington intern. Anyone who doesn’t laugh when Chad, an only child, brags about his resilience in being born to his infertile parents (“I’m the sperm that made it!”) doesn’t know funny like I do (see paragraph two of “Overview” for my credentials).
The movie is also very sly. Aside from not stating which country is being invaded, neither the President or Prime Minister is shown or even named, as the movie focuses on the actions of their aides, who are almost exclusively portrayed as selfish and self-serving jerks who will walk over anyone to get what they desire without giving a second’s thought to their actions. The only character who seems to attempt to conduct himself honestly is the patsy Simon Foster, whose life and career are in complete shambles as the movie ends. It’s not exactly difficult to decipher how the filmmakers view the ethics of politicians.
And while the movie doesn’t hesitate to portray its characters as cruel, manipulative monsters, I think what sets it apart is that it doesn’t make the cardinal mistake of a lot of political satires and portray its characters as idiots. Regardless of what anyone thinks of elected officials, the fact of the matter is they didn’t get where they are by being idiots. To portray these characters as drooling buffoons would have been too easy, and would have gotten old quickly. While the characters here do make mistakes, sometimes awful ones, they are also human ones, and with relatability comes hilarity.
It’s hard to truly critique this movie because there are too many characters and storylines (in addition to the war struggle, there are also prominent storylines involving an anti-war paper and an issue with Foster and a local citizen over a wall in his backyard) which move too quickly to give an accurate description of everything while simultaneously expressing how truly excellent it is. But mark my words, if you are looking for a smart, edgy and hilarious comedy at the video store, you will have a difficult, difficult, lemon difficult time finding one smarter, edgier and more hilarious than In The Loop.
The whip-smart dialogue and thick British accents several characters possess may not appeal to all audiences, but if you can keep up with all the proceedings, this is a movie you shouldn’t hesitate to see.
Final Score: 9.25/10