The quick-witted, acerbic Brit screwball poli-com In the Loop proves once again that things are just funnier when said in a British (or Scottish) accent. Even when most of those things are punctuated with that most taboo of four-letters, fuck. Actually, especially when most of those things are punctuated with that most taboo of four-letters, fuck. In the Loop, may harken back to the fast-paced 1930's cinema of Howard Hawks and Preston Sturges and the hey-day of screwball comedy, but with its verbal suckerpunch of profanity, it is certainly not your granddaddy's screwball. When loud, brash (and Scottish!) Malcolm Tucker, director of communications for the Prime Minister, insults a lackey by calling him the baby from Eraserhead, we know right away that we are in store for something much wittier, much more biting and with an immensely larger set of balls than your average American comedy of today. To bastardize a line from Team America: World Police - British comedy, fuck yeah!
The film, directed by Armando Iannucci and based on the short-lived Iannucci-produced UK sit-com The Thick of It, and full of what seems a master class on how to do improv and do it fucking great, is the story of Simon Foster, an inept Minister for International Development, who puts his proverbial foot in his proverbial mouth when asked by a reporter if he thinks the US and UK will go to war in the (purposely not pinned-down precisely) Middle East. After being verbally handed another asshole by the rancid-tongued Malcolm, Simon, with gung ho lackey in tow, heads to the US to meet with liaisons of the US state department including a Colin Powell-esque General played by James Gandolfini. Naturally, things go awry.
Although, the supersonic verbal barraging going on throughout tend to make the most obvious allusions to the aforementioned screwball comedy, In the Loop is political satire at its bravest and most modernly savage. A Dr. Strangelove, or perhaps a Catch-22 of sorts for the 21st century. The profane bombardment of sour grapes, snide contempt and bitter victory shows the ugly truth behind the curtain behind the lines of battle. A battle not played out on the front lines (like those of the vague war bandied about in juxtapolary debate) but instead a battle drawn upon through e-mails and faxes and texts and inter-office reportage. A war of words if you will. a war of bitter, biting, devouring words, but of words nonetheless. One politico, played by the ever-snarky David Rasche in a thinly-veiled attempt at Rumsfeldian homage, orders a typically boot-licking lackey to make secret changes to an official statement. "Take out the conditional. I want declarative sentences!"
It is an ironic bit of storytelling that when all is said and done and once everyone has (attempted) to fill their own personal and professional agendas (back stabbing and back biting are required for the job) only one person comes out as an almost noble figure. The closest thing In the Loop, jaded as it is, has to a heroic figure. It is the acid-tongued Malcolm who, though going about it in the most sinister of manners, actually gets something accomplished while everyone else prattles about in jack-off mode. Okay, everyone is still just as jaded, but at least something got done, which is more than can be said about real world politics. So to end, in an appropriately profane manner, and to quip one of Malcolm's own send-offs - fuckity-bye. Now go see In the Loop dammit. [09/03/09]