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DVD Review: In the Loop (2009)

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Packed with more scathing satire than any other movie from 2009 and more profane wit than any other movie in a long time, In the Loop is an uproarious send-up of the miscommunications that pave the road to war. Based on its laugh quotient, In the Loop far surpasses all comedies from the past year, and the sheer comic brilliance that just keeps coming scene after scene ensures it a lofty position in the film satire pantheon.

Insecure British Secretary of State for International Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander, Valkyrie), is at the center of the kerfuffle when he makes an off-the-cuff remark in a radio interview that war in the Middle East is “unforeseeable.” This makes him a popular figure across the pond where plenty of top American officials are hungry for a war, but not so much in his own office, where his foul-mouthed boss, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi, Torchwood), reams him at every turn and is desperate to get Simon to stick to the script.

Soon, Simon and his new aide, Toby (Chris Addison, The Thick of It), are on their way to Washington. Simon has aspirations of grandeur, but soon finds his visit of little importance among American officials, including an anti-war American general (James Gandolfini, Where the Wild Things Are) and an assistant secretary (Mimi Kennedy, Man in the Chair) who are trying to stop the push to war.

About the only issue where Simon’s opinion is valued is in the case of a collapsing wall near the home of an irate constituent (Steve Coogan, Night at the Museum 2), but Simon can’t even handle this one correctly.

In the Loop could’ve easily gotten bogged down in its extensive exposition that weaves the complicated tale of misunderstandings and embarrassments, but every scene crackles with razor sharp dialogue that is so densely layered it’s impossible to catch every joke. At the same time, the story is deftly advanced with each scene, emphasizing the inevitability of the film’s outcome.

Written by Jesse Armstrong and Simon Blackwell, and directed by Armando Iannucci, In the Loop succeeds so overwhelmingly because it has absolutely no predisposition to be ironic or snarkily clever — too many satires are way too pleased with their own smartness, winking at their audience all along the way. In the Loop just puts its brilliant material out there scene after scene — catch it if you can.

The performances are all fully committed to the madness, with Capaldi possessing a seemingly bottomless well of unhinged anger, and Hollander looking like a lost sheep with sublime pathos. In his small role, Coogan confirms his dependability as one of the greatest comedic actors working today, and My Girl star Anna Chlumsky finds a potential second breakthrough role with her frustrated intern Liza, who has written a paper that might be used to stop or jump start the war, depending on how it’s manipulated.

The In the Loop DVD is fairly scant on the bonus material, but it puts most of its eggs in its most important basket, with the bulk of extras devoted to a 30-minute chunk of deleted scenes that hardly show any dip in quality from the film itself. The rest is negligible, with a short EPK-style making-of and a theatrical trailer and a TV spot.

Forget The Hangover. In the Loop is the comedy that matters from 2009.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.
  • slash & burn

    “In the Loop” is appallingly funny – I’ve had to watch it several times to get some of the hundreds of jokes that just spurt out, often in a Scottish accent. Despite the jokes and the manic pace, the ending is inevitable, sad, with the banality of evil.

    “The Thick of It”, from which the movie sprang, is equally funny, but demands some understanding of British politics and culture.