Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Big Watch #2: In The Loop

“It’ll be easy peasy lemon squeezy.” “No it’ll be difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.”

Onto our second film review!

Next, I am reviewing the film ‘In The Loop’. This is a political satire, based on a BBC series called ‘The Thick Of It’, both of which come from the mind of writer Armando Iannucci. This is something of an odd beast for those of us familiar with the TV show, which focused around British MPs in both the Labour and Conservative parties, and the advisers surrounding them. Here, oddly, we have a few of those old characters, but we also have actors who were in the TV series who are playing different characters in the movie. Obviously this is a boon for those not familiar with the TV series, but it is a tad disorientating to those expecting to be in exactly the same world with the same characters as before.

The film instead focuses on the relationship between the people within the British and American governments and whether a war will soon be started by them in the Middle East. It particularly focuses on an MP called Simon Foster, played by Tom Hollander, who is thrown from a relatively low position in the British government right into the centre of this debate.

What Iannucci is so good at creating in his direction are absolutely surreal moments in this serious political world. A particularly brilliant moment is when an American General and politician meet at a house party and sneak off to discuss the war: they end up sitting in a child’s bedroom, working out troop numbers on a child’s calculator which sings out the numbers. These sublimely surreal moments brighten what can be a tough genre to work with.

What political satire can be particularly good at is wordplay and mockery. ‘Yes Minister’, an 80s TV series, was particularly brilliant at this, full of tongue twisters and ridiculous red tape. ‘The Thick Of It’ did have a similar vein to it, although the main star has to be the character Malcolm Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi, who takes swearing and insults to new levels! The film suffers a bit here. Although Malcolm Tucker returns in the film, the dialogue doesn’t always quite have the same snap and fizz as the TV series does. I think the problem here is the sheer amount of characters- in a series it isn’t a problem, because you have more time to give to each person, but here it sometimes feels like we have to focus on the plot and whole ensemble and so lose time with each character.

This is not a cheery film by any stretch (by which I mean there are no fake happy endings). The bad people don’t lose and the good people don’t win, but that is in the film’s favour rather than a negative point.

To summarise, this is a very good film (although as with the series, not one for those who don’t like swearing. Seriously.) I do think on balance if this is your style of comedy and you have more time to spend, I think the TV series is better. However this gives you a good taste of Iannucci’s world and provides a very funny glimpse into the murky backstabbing world of politics.


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