If you ever watched The Thick Of It on TV, you will know exactly what its expanded spin-off movie In The Loop is all about. Although most of the characters are new, the film revolves around Peter Capaldi‘s foul-mouthed Campbellesque Director of Communications for the PM, Malcolm Tucker.
If you haven’t seen the TV original, imagine a fly-on-the-wall camera intruding on all the internal meetings within government departments, showing all the chaos and cock-ups behind the spin. Except here, the chaos and Machiavellian machinations extend to the US government as well as the UK, demonstrating every nuance of hypocrisy in the process.
The show was created by satirical genius Armando Iannucci, now an OBE, who also directed the movie. He described the show thus: “Yes Minister meets Larry Sanders.” Pretty good description too!!
The script was developed with a team of writers. The freshness and vitality of the script, however, comes from the fact that much of the dialogue was created through improvisation. It sounds fresh as a daisy, utterly spontaneous, effortlessly combining high strategy with beautifully observed vulgar smalltalk and a range of personal afflictions. No small achievement when you hear how absurdly stilted the dialogue can be with some movies. More to the point, In The Loop is consistently the funniest film I’ve seen in donkey’s years. I laughed, I howled, I chortled, I whooped, I hollered. When did that last happen?
Ironically, Tucker is the character that least amused me, though Capaldi plays him brilliantly – hard to imagine it being done better, though Paul Higgins as the me-too bastard of a Senior Press Officer, Jamie MacDonald, is worthy of note. Tom Hollander does a splendid job as hapless minister Simon Foster, and I particularly love Gina McKee as Foster’s Director of Communications, treated by Tucker as a total nonentity.
On the American side of the pond, Mimi Kennedy, David Rasche and James Gandolfini (yes, Tony Soprano, none other!) join in the fun, mimicking perfectly the stressed paranoia of their British counterparts. Gandolfini’s General Miller is arguably the most laid-back character in the whole movie, with a sly line in verbal barbs.
All this would simply be bitchy comedy of cultural bad manners were the situations not so totally credible. You can imagine the tangled web being every bit as twisted as portrayed, with everyone on the greasy pole so desperate to stay in the loop, but screwing up every opportunity with a consistency that would surprise nobody. Be warned – this is the reality of government!!