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LAFF Review: In the Loop

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In the same way that Wag the Dog was about the Clinton sex scandals without ever explicitly being about the Clinton sex scandals, Armando Iannucci's In the Loop is a searing and hilarious shadow satire about the run-up to the West's collective misadventures in Iraq. Alternately howlingly mean and relentlessly authentic, it may be the funniest movie of the year, weaving a pastiche of profanity so inventive one can't help but marvel at it. Further, if there has been a better performance this year than that given by Peter Capaldi, I haven't seen it.

As the film opens, English government minister Simon Foster is being assailed by Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker for daring to say in public that a war many believed to be imminent was, in fact, "unforeseeable." Bug-eyed with anger and bristling with certainty, Tucker is a man few dare to tangle with and Foster quickly capitulates to him. He tries to make amends when he is ambushed by an army of reporters, but mangles his remarks to them and is immediately propped up as a warmonger ready to climb, in his words, "the mountain of conflict."

Meantime in Washington D.C., a similar battle is brewing between the hawks and doves in the State Department. James Gandolfini's General Miller and Mimi Kennedy's Karen Clarke are trying to scuttle any invasion plans, while David Rasche's Linton Barwick is all too eager to let slip the dogs of war. Clarke travels to England to meet with her British counterparts, at which point Fuller -- already knee-deep in shit in Britain -- is sucked into the American internecine conflict and -- just like that -- back we all go to Washington.

It's here, of course, that all hell breaks loose. Imagine every base and craven impulse that resides within the human heart and you will see it on full, merciless display within the hallowed corridors of American power. Alliances are formed, broken and formed again; lies are told with a smile; secrets are leaked despite the strictest of assurances; there's sex and cowardice and boot-licking and all of it is told at a pace so dizzying sometimes all you can hear is "fuck fuck fuck fuck cunt fuck fuck". In short, it's absolutely brilliant.

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Of course, there is still a story to be told. Despite its affection for glorying in the profane, In the Loop does have a larger point to make which leads us to the UN where a critical war authorization vote is taking place. One of the great joys of the film is the way in which it reveals how absurd government really can be. After all, it is still real people filling these jobs and, frankly, those people who are attracted to the power of government are often not the most decent of folk. Given that, it's easy to predict how the UN vote goes and the film ends.

Movies about Iraq have performed dismally at the box office, but then again, they were all intense dramas and none were as smart as In the Loop. Many people will read the synopsis of the film and say, "pass". That would be a mistake. Sure this is an ostensibly anti-war film, but it's a damned funny one and you will rarely see performances and direction as sharp as those on display here. If nothing else, the glimpse the film gives into how our government actually works is illuminating and not a little bit scary. Mark In the Loop as a must-see.

In the Loop does not screen again at the Los Angeles Film Festival but does open on July 24th in theaters. Put a thumbtack on your calendar and don't miss this great film.

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