In the Loop


Rating 4

Directed by Armando Iannucci

Written by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche, with additional material by Ian Martin

Starring Peter Capaldi (Malcolm Tucker), Tom Hollander (Simon Fowler), Chris Addison (Toby Wright), Gina McKee (Judy), Paul Higgins (Jamie MacDonald), Anna Chlumsky (Liza Weld), Zach Woods (Chad), Mimi Kennedy (Karen Clarke), James Gandolfini (Lt General George Miller), David Rasche (Linton Barwick), Enzo Cilenti (Bob Adriano), Johnny Pemberton (A J Brown), Steve Coogan (Paul Michaelson), James Smith (Michael Rodgers), Olivia Poulet (Suzy) and Alex Macqueen (Sir Jonathan Tutt)

Simon Fowler, the hapless Minister for International Development, remarks that war in the Middle East is “unforeseeable” during a radio interview, incurring the wrath of the Rottweiler-like Malcolm Tucker, the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications and Strategy. His statement is seized on by a visiting US political delegation and he becomes the pawn in the Machiavellian scheming of the pro-war and anti-war factions, both in Washington and Westminster.


‘In the Loop’ is a 2009 feature film spin-off from the BBC television series ‘The Thick of It’, which began in 2005. The film is a satire on Anglo-American politics and specifically the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It’s a kind of anti-‘The West Wing’, stripping away the supposed glamour and integrity of politics, as depicted in that acclaimed American television series.

The British Prime Minister does not feature and when he is mentioned, the impression is given that Malcolm Tucker (who is closely based on Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s Director of Communications and Strategy between 1997 and 2003, who wielded enormous political power, despite being unelected) makes statements and decisions said to be on behalf of the Prime Minister without actually consulting him. At one point, he says, “I have spoken to the Prime Minister... Whether it’s happened or not is irrelevant.” This is one of the few times when Tucker speaks without spewing a succession of profanities. The air is blue with swearing from start to finish in this film. After the initial radio broadcast that sets the chain of events in motion, Tucker says, “This is the Minister of International Development here, he should be talking about food parcels, not fucking arse-spraying mayhem.”

Scarier than Tucker is Jamie MacDonald, one of his junior colleagues, who says of himself, “You know me, Malc, kid gloves... but made from real kids,” and at one point asks Toby Wright, Fowler’s hapless aide, “You want me to hole-punch your face?” British politics is presented as being run by a handful of unelected Downing Street officials, sociopathic thugs who terrorise the various Ministerial departments, peopled by spineless incompetents, to ensure that everyone toes the Party line. In other words, it is an accurate depiction of what went on under Tony Blair’s premiership, particularly during the years up to the resignation of Alastair Campbell in 2003 during the Hutton Inquiry into the death of the Ministry of Defence biological weapons expert Dr David Kelly.

Both sides of the American political spectrum are seen to manipulate the hapless and star-struck British, using the British delegation to Washington in an attempt to out-manoeuvre one another. In the meanwhile, Malcolm Tucker cuts a bloody swathe through all parties, spewing his obscenities and weaving his Machiavellian plots, only to also become a victim of American plotting, caught up as he is in his own self-defeating arrogance. As the anti-war Lt General George Miller tells him, “You might be some scary little poodle-fucker over in England, but out here you’re nothing.”

‘In the Loop’ is without doubt the funniest film I have seen since the Coen brothers’ 1998 classic ‘The Big Lebowski’. It is also a brilliant portrayal of the machinations of Tony Blair’s Downing Street officials and the true nature of the supposed “special relationship” with Washington.

The film has a 94% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes from 117 reviews. It had a worldwide box office gross of $5.2 million. The production budget has not been made public, but it received a £612,650 (a little over $1 million) contribution from the UK Film Council.

Review posted 29 August 2009


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