Political satires are a tough sell on the big screen. Films such as “Wag the Dog” and “Primary Colors” never came close to the genius that fueled Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove” in 1964. But writer/director Armando Iannucci’s first feature film, “In the Loop,” is on the right track because it watches Washington spin and sell the insanities of war.
Presumably, the film takes place just prior to the Iraqi invasion. Simon Foster, the British minister of international development (Tom Hollander, “Valkyrie”), has given an interview to the BBC in which he states, “War is unforeseeable.” The comment enrages Malcolm Tucker, the prime minister’s director of communications, (Peter Capaldi) who ships Foster and his neophyte assistant off to Washington to make amends with the State Department.
Because Foster is a dove, he’s targeted by Assistant Secretary of Diplomacy Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy) and her former lover/pacifist, four-star Lt. Gen. George Miller (James Gandolfini, aka Tony Soprano). Hopes of using him in their anti-war movement are dashed when pro-war State Department official Linton Barwick (David Rasche,”Burn Before Reading”) digs up some dirt. He’s the guy who uses a live grenade as a paperweight.
Having said all that, “In the Loop” is seriously funny. Razor-sharp dialogue is delivered by a master class of actors. Favorite moments are scenes between Gandolfini and Kennedy, whose intimate past history is evident in their incredible body language. Hollander demonstrates serious star power while he tackles a major range of emotions. Capaldi’s relentless bile-spewing profanity was a tad over-the-top, so rapid-fire I missed much of it.
As Iannucci explores the lunacy of pettiness existing among technocrats within government circles, he spares no one. Liberals and conservatives are just as smarmy. And never does he allow the veneer of comedy belie what lies beneath. War, no matter where or why it’s manufactured, always takes a grievous toll.
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