In the Loop


In The Loop, Armando Ianucci's big screen quasi-adaptation of his own BBC political satire The Thick of It, is a thing of pure genius and a testament to the power and effectiveness of outstanding writing and a keen awareness of society's ebbs and floes. It's a nearly perfect melding of Wag The Dog, Dr. Strangelove and The Office, if you can imagine such a beast. The plot involves an off-the-cuff remark made during a radio interview by a junior government minister that quickly spins out of control launching he and his aides head-first into an escalating international (read: American) buildup toward war in the Middle East.

The star of the film is undoubtedly the foul-mouthed Malcolm Tucker (played to perfection by Scottish actor, Peter Capaldi), a sort of governmental attack dog who bullies and verbally pistol-whips the Prime Minister's underlings into holding the party line and doing what they're told. No one can swear quite like Capaldi. He is a one-man profanity factory and he is hilarious. There is an absolute embarrassment of quotable lines in the loop, so many in fact that it would take several viewings just to catch them all. It's a film that's 100% dialogue coming at you at 200 miles an hour. Frankly, it's a little exhausting trying to keep up but worthy of your complete attention.

In The Loop got me thinking that modern satire has turned a corner and might be better now than it ever was. It used to be tough to satirize the strictly buttoned-down and earnest news media and political elite. They were the source of important utterances and almost above ridicule. Exceptions existed back in the old days of course (Python, SNL and SCTV to name a few) but when The Onion News Network webcasts do it these days, it works mostly because they play it so straight. It's not that comedy writing is necessarily better, more that the mainstream media isn't as unassailable as they once were. Their product has become so clownish and ludicrous over the past ten or fifteen years, that exposing those traits for what they are works best when you simply copy them. I'd have to guess that In The Loop is ONN's political equivalent. The reason it seems so disturbingly humourous is its less-than-faint familiarity. One could easily imagine that this is exactly what the inner workings of politic parties of every stripe feels like, circa 2009. Like The Onion does with big media, Ianucci simply tweaks the present day political chicanery that we hear and read about every day and regurgitates it on the screen, almost verbatim.

As our society continues to morph into something as yet unidentifiable but clearly different, the cherished estates of yore are increasingly coming under attack. The First Estate (the clergy), the Second Estate (the elite) and the Fourth Estate (the press) are regularly lambasted and thoroughly discounted by an increasingly vocal Third Estate (the commoners, aka you and me). In The Loop plugs into this present-day elitist deconstruction with great success, and appears to have no qualms suggesting that the entire political system is fundamentally... in the words of Malcolm Tucker....


Hats off to all involved for a job well done.



the coelacanth said...

ooooh! cb-t3 and i have been chatting about this one for months - so excited it's finally out and i think i'll watch it tonight or tomorrow. nice review.

Captain said...

Really enjoyed it, but found the cabinet minister too weak. If he had a few insightful arguments for opposing the war, his character would have served the role of Mr. Smith (as in Mr Smith Goes to Washington) more effectively. PS. Can you believe that media Republicans are actually sighting Mr. Smith in their argument for Doug Hoffman?