Monday, January 18, 2010

In The Loop

Of all the movies I rented recently, my favorite by far is Armando Iannucci's political satire In The Loop. The movie came out last summer to brilliantly positive reviews and disappointingly weak box office. If you are one of the billions of people who did not see this movie when it came out, I heartily recommend that you rent it on DVD.

The story revolves around a war that has not yet been declared. The United States is considering invading an undisclosed Middle Eastern country and the United Kingdom are likely to follow suit. No president or prime minister is mentioned, but the viewer is likely to assume the time period is 2003 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The character who starts the plot rolling is a well meaning but easily flustered British minister, played by Tom Hollander (right). His chief of staff (Gina McKee) has no control over the minister's habit of sticking his foot in his mouth and their relationship is contentious. Enter a young new aide Toby (Chris Addison, left), who the minister sees as an ally against the chief of staff.

While all these characters are central to the story, it is the Prime Minister's Director of Communications, played brilliantly by Peter Capaldi, who moves the story forward. Based loosely on Tony Blair's spin doctor Alistair Campbell, Capaldi's character is short on patience, long on energy and an absolute master at inventing insulting nicknames and stringing together profanities. If this guy were real, Rahm Emanuel would ask him to turn it down a notch.

The action moves from Britain to the United States when both hawkish and dovish factions in the State Department take notice of the minister's clumsy statements and invite him to Washington D.C., each hoping to bolster their respective cases for and against invasion. While there are several important "grown-ups" in D.C., played brilliantly by James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy and David Rasche, the Brits are appalled at how much power in Washington is given to twentysomethings, another truth about the Bush administration that makes this work of fiction feel like a documentary from time to time.

The movie isn't about party politics as much as it is about office politics, and as someone who has worked in offices with factional squabbles, every little detail felt completely believable. While the critics loved the movie, it's not getting much Oscar buzz, though it might have a chance for nominations for best original screenplay and supporting actor for Capaldi.

Regardless of what awards it gets, I give it the Matty Boy Seal Of Approval. If the premise sounds even a little interesting to you, I definitely recommend you rent In The Loop.

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