In the Loop’ Eyes D.C., U.K.

Posted July 22, 2009 at 4:26pm

A new fast-paced political satire provides moviegoers a comical look at the workings of Washington and London while sparing no members of government its satirical eye. “In the Loop,— which opens in the Washington area on Friday, will leave viewers clamoring for more.

The movie is shot in a documentary format with hand cameras to make the audience feel like flies on the wall watching the action. It is the spinoff version of writer-director Armando Iannucci’s BBC television series “The Thick of It,— and viewers familiar with the show, which ran in the U.K. in 2005 and in the U.S. on BBC America in 2006, will recognize many of the characters, style and comedy featured in the movie. For those unfamiliar with the show, think “The West Wing— meets “The Office.—

The movie tracks the runup to the Iraq War without using the name of the country or the politicians involved, but that doesn’t stop Iannucci from spoofing the events surrounding it and commenting on the myriad back-and-forth and gamesmanship played among different U.S. agencies and the British and American administrations.

The movie begins when Simon Foster (played by Tom Hollander), U.K. minister for international development, doesn’t stick to the party line when conducting a radio interview on diarrhea in the Third World. Foster is thrown off guard by a question about the possibility of America going to war in an unnamed Middle Eastern country.

Foster’s comments that no one could predict whether the country is going to war sets the communication team at No. 10 Downing St. into a tizzy. The audience is introduced to the “enforcer— of a strict line of communication. Malcolm Tucker is the Type A director of communications for the prime minister, played masterfully, even frighteningly, by Peter Capaldi. Tucker wastes no time telling Foster exactly what he (and thus the prime minister) thought about his verbal hiccup.

But instead of following Tucker’s advice to keep a low profile, Foster attempts to smooth over any damage caused by his remarks by giving a street interview where he states, “Britain must be ready to climb the mountain of conflict.— Watching from his office, Tucker comments that he sounds like “a Nazi Julie Andrews.—

Foster is sent away to D.C., described by Foster’s director of communications, Judy Malloy (Gina McKee), as “Bugsy Malone’ but with real guns,— where he is to meet with officials in the State Department. But instead of providing his views and participating in a robust debate, Foster is made into “room meat— where he is simply there to fill the room, but not speak.

Any Capitol Hill staffer who has had to deal with constituents will get a laugh out of what ultimately ends up being Foster’s demise, his attempt at fixing a wall on behalf of one of his constituents. The town hall meeting Foster reluctantly attends is described as being like “Simon Cowell without being able to say, F— off. You’re mental.’—

The movie examines how power is used in government and how quickly it can be lost. Tucker, who plays the media off the Americans and off British politicians in a vain attempt to keep his own power, parallels the story of former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s director of communications, Alastair Campbell, who resigned in 2003 over an inquiry into the Iraq War.

The movie is full of quick jabs at the seemingly endless political game of what agenda takes place at meetings, the minutiae involved in diplomacy and the millions of abbreviations and their origins. Arguments over what the State Department regards as vital aspects to any meeting, like whether carbonated or noncarbonated beverages will be served, will likely resonate with anyone in Foggy Bottom or Capitol Hill who has had to plan for such an event.

Many of the shots will look familiar to Washingtonians with the Capitol, State Department and Reagan National Airport all featured. Upon seeing official Washington, Foster, after first reprimanding a member of his staff for being overwhelmed by America’s capital, is impressed enough to remark sheepishly that the town is “a little f—ing cool.—

Some of the movie’s story lines seem thrown in simply to provide an (often funny) one-liner, and the unnamed war and prime minister don’t leave much to the imagination. However, the dialogue, which was often improvised, is convincing enough to leave viewers scared by how quickly and easily war can become foreseeable.

“In the Loop— premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and will open in the D.C. area on Friday at E Street Cinema and Bethesda Row Cinema. The movie is 106 minutes and unrated but contains strong language and adult content.