Today! Because we burned this tight-arsed city to the ground in 1814, and I’m all for doing it again, starting with you, you frat fuck –
In the Loop (2009)
Directed by Armando Iannucci
Starring Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Mimi Kennedy, James Gandolfini, Gina McKee, Anna Chlumsky, David Rasche (x2), Steve Coogan, Zach Woods, Olivia Poulet, Chris Addison, James Smith, Paul Higgins
A brilliant comedy that functions oddly as both a TV show sequel and a different show’s pseudo-prequel, In the Loop comes from the genius of Armando Iannucci, whose place on future lists is assured – his 2018 comedy The Death of Stalin is the funniest movie of the last five years. And going back a ways, Iannucci is also the driving creative force (along with star Steve Coogan, obviously) behind two of my favorite British television shows – Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge and its spin-off/sequel I’m Alan Partridge (plus the later film – Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa). I can’t speak to a lot of his other TV credits, as those shows never got themselves available in the states.
But In the Loop is squarely in what you could call Modern Iannucci – it shares a few characters and many actors from the British political satire The Thick of It, and also from the later American political satire Veep, functioning as a bridge between these two shows without really being either of them. The tone and comedy are the same, though – caustic, biting, vulgar, and withering. And despite achieving the high honor of portraying the 12th Doctor Who some years later, Peter Capaldi will always be bulldog/monster political fixer Malcolm Tucker, whose scathing, almost poetically crass takedowns are so crushingly funny as to nearly steal the entire film, and away from a very talented supporting group.
But the British half of the film only slightly overshadows the American, where the group is led by Mimi Kennedy as Assistant Secretary of State and James Gandolfini as General Miller, along with various aids and underlings, most notably Anna Chlumsky – not playing Veep’s Amy but a very close facsimile. The film’s plot follows the behind-the-scenes wrangling of a potential armed conflict in the Middle East, with both allies aiming to either avoid it or commit fully, largely dependent on what the other decides. Early on, the British delegation comes to Washington to try and sort this out, finding themselves shuffled between meetings and committees, inadvertently leaking information, and providing misleading opinions at all the wrong times. This, of course, leads to many more opportunities for gloriously vulgar chastisement. And in most of these scenes, the brutal repartee is deliciously one-sided abuse, but then we come to a grand showdown between Tucker and Gandolfini’s equally game general, and it is the colossal sparring match you’d hope for.
Capaldi (nominated for BAFTAs for the role on all four series of The Thick of It) and the screenplay won or were nominated for a number of guild awards, including the New York, L.A., and Chicago film critics, while the BAFTAs had it up for Best British Film and Screenplay. The script was the only Oscar nominated component of the film, meaning its Best I Heart Huckabees Takedown went completely unrewarded! Bah!
Only one new Two-Timer emerges from In the Loop, so it’s an easy yet still deserved spotlight today for Sledge Hammer himself David Rasche (#326 Delirious)!