Anyone familiar with any of Armando Iannucci’s work will know the calibre of his talent. His back catalogue speaks for itself. Writer of comedy milestones such as The Day Today, Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge, I’m Alan Partridge and the lesser known Armando Iannucci Shows, he is, simply put, one of the best satirists of today.
Based on his BBC TV show The Thick Of It, In The Loop is the story of spineless anti-war British minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) being forced to toe the party line in the build up to a war in the Middle East. Doing much of that forcing is shouty, sweary, Scottish communications director Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi). Having been forced to equivocate on the likelihood of war, the Americans lock onto him as a pro-war ally, and he is called, along with his aide Toby (Chris Addison), to Washington.
Enter James Gandolfini as General Miller, Mimi Kennedy as Karen Clarke and the wonderful Anna Chlumsky as her aide Liza. (I defy any boy who grew up with My Girl not to fall for Anna Chlumsky all over again.) From here, the satire descends to farce, with political posturing, superiority complexes, arrogant college graduates and hilarious incompetence.
One of the interesting things about In The Loop is that Iannucci does absolutely nothing to make any of the characters likeable. With the possible exception of Liza, all of the characters – both British and American – are weak, selfish, stupid, arrogant or a cocktail of all four, with dashes of plenty of other character flaws.
The highlight of In The Loop, however, is the creativity and breadth of Malcolm's swearing (and later, of his understudy Jamie). Certainly, a highlight is the sight of Malcolm yelling "Lick my sweaty ball, you fat fuck!" at an overweight American tourist who's asked him to stop swearing outside the White House, or the simply delightful "Fuckety-bye-bye, then."
All in all, Armando Iannucci’s world of politics is too spineless, backstabbing and meaningless for us to take it seriously. It is satire after all, it’s meant to use hyperbole to expose the ridiculousness of the problems. I could get all artsy and pretentious here and say that maybe that’s what he’s trying to say. By making his satire a farce, he is saying that politics itself is just that – a farce. I could say that but I won’t. What I will say is that it leaves me just a little bit terrified that it might be true.
For the creativity in swearing alone, In The Loop is worth the watch. The addition of Anna Chlumsky makes it hard to miss. B+.