Friday, August 14, 2009

In the Loop [Rhoades]

In the Loop” Satirizes Politics

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

What if someone made a movie about the US President and the British Prime Minister conspiring to have a war in the Middle East? A documentary, you say? No, a satire actually.

“In the Loop” -- a BBC Films and UK Film Council co-production – is playing at the Tropic Cinema.

Actually a spinoff from the BBC-TV show “In the Thick,” director Armando Iannucci sets out to show how tangled communications inside government departments can lead to dire consequences. Like war.

Remember “Wag the Dog”? That was the 1997 Barry Levinson film where a spin doctor (Robert DeNiro) wages a fictitious war on Albania for political purposes? This is kinda the same, but the potential war here isn’t fictitious.

“In the Loop” recounts the thrust-and-parry of politics, where some government officials are hawks and others are quivering doves. It follows an entourage of mid-level policymakers and their PR flacks as war talk flares after a British cabinet minister misspeaks during a radio interview.

Classical actor Tom Holland plays Simon Foster, the inept minister who sets off all the war brouhaha. Will he have to resign?

“So this all gonna spin along from here,” whines Simon. “We’re gonna have a vote and we’re gonna go to war and we gonna fight them and we’re gonna kill them and our children are gonna get killed. And this is exactly the sort of thing I didn’t wanna do when I went into politics, this is the opposite of what I wanted to be doing.”

“Well, that’s exactly why you have to stay in government, so you can influence things,” argues the spin doctor. “In here you can influence things, you can delay things.” But isn’t this just another example of his manipulative spins?

Chris Addison joins the fray as Toby, the minister’s hapless new aide, a kid willing to take one for the team when it comes to a pretty American aide. “Did you just say that you had sex to stop the war, an anti-war shag?” his girlfriend challenges.

Anna Chlumsky pops up as Liza Wells, the American aide, in her first role since her childhood turn in the movie “My Girl.”

David Rasche steps up as Linton Barwick, the US Assistant Secretary, Policy. A Donald Rumsfeld-like politician who sets up a “Future Planning Committee” as a euphemism for his intended War Committee. And he blithely doctors committee minutes to “not be a reductive record of what happened to have been said, but should be a more full record of what was intended to have been said.” Perfect political double speak.

And “The Sopranos” star James Gandolfini wears a well-stuffed uniform covered with medals as General George Miller, a senior military assistant at the Pentagon who opposes war. “General Flintstone,” some call him.

Front and center is the spin doctor. Peter Capaldi reprises his TV role as Malcolm Tucker, the Prime Minister’s foul-mouthed enforcer who is struggling to control the situation. Every other word is an expletive, language so salty the Morton’s umbrella girl would blush.

The hatchet-faced actor does a (blank)ing masterful job as the aggressive communications chief. As one moviegoer observed, Peter Capaldi “steals the show with his relentlessly scathing superhuman vulgarity ridden wit.”

Director Iannucci says, “I deliberately didn’t want it to be about Iraq. I didn’t want it to mention who the president was, the prime minister, what the country was. I’m kind of looking at the underlings, the people who are always there in government. I wanted to show how government generally works, as well as taking a specific moment in time. And how actually, it’s not just the big important people and their decisions, it’s the actions of everyone, whether they decided to pass on something or stand up.”

Iannucci once observed there really are no evil politicians, that they’re just people like you and me who in some cases are able to meet the challenge. “Well that’s just it,” he confirms his viewpoint. “I wanted to not show politics as good or evil, like these are the good guys and these are the bad guys. I kind of wanted it to feel much more real.”

Real or not, “In the Loop” teaches us many great truths about politics. One being: “We don’t need any more facts. In the land of truth, my friend, a man with one fact is the king.”

[from Solares Hill]

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