In The Loop – Armando Iannucci (2009)
British politics has recently entered a transitional period. Major political figures have been held t o account at the Iraq Inquiry, the expenses scandal has made way for a lobbying pandemic and polls reveal that no party currently dominates electoral consensus. There’s also the case of an upcoming general election.
Armando Iannucci’s political satire starts when Simon Foster (a wonderfully helpless Tom Hollander), British Secretary of State for International Development, breaks a protocol of neutrality and describes on national radio that a war in the Middle East is “non-foreseeable”.
It’s one of those phrases that in an era of sexed up dossiers and sound bite journalism the audience have become accustomed to if not entirely convinced by its credibility.
Foster’s admission, if you can call it that, attracts the attention of the PM’s communications chief, Malcolm Tucker, who is charged with cooling UK-US relations whilst also maintaining a pro-war stance.
Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi in a role reprised from BBC’s The Thick Of It, is a constant reminder of the political spin, as well as callous manipulation and deviance, which lurks under the surface of international politics.
He represents the bullying, pit-bull nature of politics in an era driven by media presentation: a cross between Alistair Campbell and John Prescott. Indeed at one point, condemning Fosters “climb the mountain of conflict” phrase, Tucker compares him to a “Nazi Julie Andrews”.
But in true satirical style it is he who also breathes the most life into the film, despite his deflating attacks.
We follow Foster and his new assistant Toby (Chris Addison) as they embark on a public relations mission to Washington. It’s in the American capital where Foster becomes a sought-after puppet to both warmongers and sceptics hoping to at once start and prevent war.
Although Foster’s vulnerability adds to the comedy of his and Toby’s exploits across the pond, you can’t help but wonder just how close to the bone In The Loop cut’s. One of the film’s biggest ironies, though, is that it is the US Army General (James Gandolfini) who opposes the war.
But it us the verite-style camera techniques along with a blisteringly devastating script, laden with paradoxical rhetoric, make you feel as though this could happen – or perhaps that it already has.