Sunday, October 25, 2009
Nine Days of Reviewin' #6: Rude, crude and vulgar
Daily posting is so much harder than it looks, especially when you spend half the weekend looking for comics at your second-even convention. So I'm cheating, and reposting this review of one of my favourite films of the year, originally written in my secret identity for www.nbr.co.nz
In The Loop
Directed by Armando Iannucci
In the Loop is a deeply cynical and occasionally bleak film, but could also be the funniest movie of the year with the sharpest of dialogue and some of cinema’s finest insults in years.
The cynicism and bleakness come from the ease with which the film’s spin doctors, politicians and military men effortlessly manipulate the system for their own agendas, using the unfortunate use of the phrase “unforeseeable” in a discussion about war to set events in motion that will lead to unimaginable tragedy.
That tragedy is never seen on screen as the events play out in a series of anonymous offices, hallways and mediations rooms, but the feature film spin-off from director Armando Iannucci’s BBC government satire The Thick Of It never stops moving as the political games play out.
The plot is also taken to the next level by heading across the Atlantic and diving straight into the political swamp of Washington DC. There, the Brits soon discover that while their US counterparts can be much more polite to their face, they are just as cunning and manipulative when they want something.
It’s a sharp plot with many clever things to say about the role of the media in the political process and the dodgy dealings that happen in plain sight under horribly anonymous names.
But In The Loop also delivers up some massive laughs as characters constantly insult each other with imaginative and thoughtful venom. The language is not for the easily offended, or even for all those who take a bit to get offended, as every swear word in the world is pulled out, and a fair few new ones invented.
There is just one moment where the movie stops for 10 seconds, as a major character realizes he has been completely outplayed, but is up and running again almost instantly, wheeling, dealing and laying out vengeful destruction on those who have wronged him.
As chief spin doctor and malevolent messenger from the unseen PM Malcolm Tucker, Peter Capaldi is brilliant. A tragically unsung British actor who carries the role over from the television series, Capaldi burns up the screen with piercing eyes and furious expletives.
The fact that Tucker is a magnificently angry and vindictive Scotsman is pushed into relief by Jamie MacDonald (Paul Higgins), another import from The Thick Of It who manages to be an even more angry and vindictive Scotsman, destroying fax machines that dare to look at him funny.
James Gandolfini can’t help bringing his serene Soprano fury to his role in the film, but still impresses as a weary general who uses a to-year-old’s computer to point out that you actually need troops alive at the end of a conflict before you can say you actually won it.
There is plenty of good supporting roles backing up the leads, including several familiar faces from the television version in unfamiliar roles, while the film also brings in the completely clueless and wonderfully vague Tom Hollander, the terrifically slimy David Rasche and the all-grown-up Anna Chlumsky.
But it’s the dialogue that shines and will have you jumping to the IMDB quote page the day after you watch it to remember the gems in the vast stream of profanity and put-downs that just don’t stop coming.
It’s well worth seeing. After a stressful week, it may be surprisingly therapeutic to watch angry people in thoroughly adequate suits yell insults at stupid people. At the very least, you’re bound to pick up a few good new insults to throw at the guy who cuts you off on the drive to work on Monday morning.