Over the past 15 years Armando Iannucci has been one of the driving forces behind some of the best British Comedy the country has ever seen. Responsible for the escapades of Alan Partridge and recently the executive producer of Stewart Lee’s brilliant Comedy Vehicle this week sees the release of In the Loop, the big screen transference of Iannucci’s The Thick Of It.
While some reviews are prone to blatant hyperbole, In the Loop deserves all the accolade it can garner. The film perfectly captures the spirit of the short running television series whilst remaining a separate entity in its own right. The film follows MP Simon Foster as he admits that war in the Middle East is inevitable, only for his words to be lampooned by a travelling American contingency to figurehead a move towards conflict. Events are split across the Atlantic as Foster and his aide Toby (playing an almost identical role as Ollie in the TV Series) try to mediate the procedural processes in Washington, only to be overawed by the nature of American politics. The events, although never specific on the country that is to be invaded, eerily mirror the run up to the infamous sexing up of documents prior to the invasion of Iraq.
For anyone who has seen the press coverage of the film so far you will already know that Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker is THE main talking point of the film. Capaldi turns in a performance that trumps his small screen portrayal. The man swears spectacularly. Capaldi’s rants and tirades are literary masterpieces in their own right “Purview?… F**k off back to Cranford”. The abuse comes so thick and fast that you cannot help but wince, squirm and pity his dumbstruck victims. Recent articles have likened his status to other nightmare bosses David Brent (The Office) or Sue White (Green Wing), but in reality he in is in a league of his own. Although it has been denied that the character is based on Tony Blair’s former spin doctor one cannot help but feel as if it isn’t too far fetched in the farce that is British politics. Tucker would, for instance, have thrived on Jacqui Smith’s recent porn-gate!
Cut from the same awkward stone as The Office, as events progress they get even more farcical and ludicrous. Tom Hollander as Foster is fantastic for an actor who is not used to the improvisational nature of Iannucci’s comedy. All his run ins with Tucker see the character mutate into a timid rabbit caught in head lights. Foster is hopelessly pathetic and Hollander really forces this home to the audience as he ultimately breaks down, realising the horrific repercussions of his thoughtless words – “we must first climb the mountain of conflict” an inspired, yet unfortunate catchphrase, that is not unlike the moronic catchphrases that some of our inept politicians feed the press week in week out.
The only let down the film had for me was the need to include Steve Coogan. Coogan is billed as one of the main actors in the film for a role he appears on screen for over five minutes. Unlike the other ‘grounded’ characters in the film his performance seems so hammed up it makes his appearance in Tropic Thunder seem almost bearable. Equally the American cast do their best to keep up with the Brits but one cannot help but feel that they do not get this specific genre of comedy.
Impact film has been prone to bullying Hugh Grant over the past year and this review will focus more on his main collaborator Richard Curtis. If Britain is to produce great and intelligent comedy, like In the Loop, then we must fund great scriptwriters like Iannucci so we can flourish and compete with our American counterparts in the industry, instead of producing the monotonous filth Curtis churns out every three years. Yes it may be popular, but when we compare it to something like In the Loop it crumbles under the comparison.
So, in the immortal words of Malcolm Tucker I suggest you “Come the f**k in, or f**k the f**k off”.