In The Loop


Reviewed by: Chris

In The Loop
"The dialogue would make any comedian reliant on gutter tactics exceedingly proud."

I felt slightly saddened and not a little ashamed of the sorry state of affairs in our cinemas watching In The Loop, even though it is well-acted and brilliantly scripted. As a television satire transplanted onto the big screen, it does an admirable job of living up to its tasteless expectations. In a political arena of spin and counter-spin, British and American politicians collude over bringing about an unjustifiable war that looks like Iraq, right down to jokes about hounding someone to an assisted suicide suggestive of the death of David Kelly.

What depresses me about a film that, against my better judgement, gave me quite a few laughs, is not the exhumation of the seediness of politics. Nor the unbroken use of creative expletives from its first to last moment. It is my own acknowledgement of a powerlessness in British culture, unlike its European counterpart where public protests can and do influence politics, or the USA where elections offer real choice. We, the British, find consolation for political impotence in the salve of cynicism.

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In The Loop is a sniggering affirmation of helplessness against ministerial mouthings-off that no one believes. But it is not a protest movie: it is entertainment. We longer go to the movies to think. Quite the opposite. We go to switch off our intellectual faculties at the end of the day and, accordingly, this is what we get. Where a film that prodded our sensibilities on the issues, forcing us to examine our consciences or come out on one side or the other would have failed at the box-office, In The Loop is a ‘runaway success’, delighting both the public and its equally anaesthetised critics. Instead of overhauling ministerial responsibility, we will probably give it a Bafta and go home feeling good about ourselves.

Ignoring any serious take, as In The Loop adroitly encourages me to do, one effortlessly portrayed difference that particularly interested me was the cross-Atlantic cultural difference on swearing. It is on release at a time when the US legal system has just upheld the regulatory board's justification for fining a television company over even a single use of a swear word. Such 'prudery' would be unimaginable to British audiences. The White House lackeys of In The Loop carry this characteristic self-censorship through with considerable humour and effectiveness, battling their British counterparts who find ever more inventive ways to use the f-word and its equivalents.

In The Loop is unmistakably British, right down to the lottery funds that enable us to trumpet our foul language to the world and make them laugh. The dialogue would make any comedian reliant on gutter tactics exceedingly proud. Its unceasing and seemingly limitless supply makes any background music redundant, and the makers have wisely omitted such trappings – apart from an old boy–type government face who listens to Debussy and has his finger pressed on the requisite part of the keyboard to delete any criticisms of intended war.

If you can afford to spend a couple of hours (including adverts) in the cinema and not worry about where the time went, go and see this film. It will become a timeless ‘classic’ on DVD and will probably be adored by an equal number of bleeding hearts who know they can’t stop governments bombing people but can delight in ‘knowing’ better. Cheap shots, intellectual conceit, and the stand-up skill of attacking everyone while upsetting no one. Whether it is a meritorious film is another matter entirely, but that has never bothered the cinema-paying public. Any more than the countless people killed or tortured in their name.

In The Loop is better entertainment than a Labour Party Conference. And much less expensive.

Reviewed on: 30 Apr 2009
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In The Loop packshot
Politicians spin while they're winning on the brink of a Middle East war. Plus read our interview with .

Read more In The Loop reviews:

Amber Wilkinson ****

Director: Armando Iannucci

Writer: Jesse Armstrong, Armando Iannucci

Starring: Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Chris Addison, James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy, Anna Chlumsky, Steve Coogan, David Rasche, Gina McKee, Olivia Poulet

Year: 2009

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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