Netflix Movie Month: "In the Loop" Review

Photo Credit: IFC Films

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Rating: NR
Length: 106 minutes
Release Date: April 17, 2009
Directed by: Armando Iannucci
Genre: Comedy

A comedy of errors in the finest sense of the phrase, "In The Loop" tells the tale of a British prime minister and a U.S. president who mutually favor launching a war. Despite their commitment to a military adventure, some of their own subordinates, including a U.S. general and a British Cabinet secretary, are not on board.

Improvidently, the British Cabinet secretary, Simon Foster, accidentally backs the idea of war on television despite his opposition to it. In the process, Foster suddenly finds himself highly regarded and popular among the hawkish set in the U.S. capital. Foster sets off to derail the growing movement toward war, including scheming to thwart the efforts of the prime minister's spin doctor's rigging of a United Nations vote in support of military action. Foster finds an improbable ally in the form of a U.S. general who disfavors this particular proposed military action.

The efforts of director Armando Iannucci make the ensemble cast of "In The Loop"  shine. In this 2009 film, Iannucci utilizes many of the techniques seen in the critically acclaimed HBO television series "Veep," which he created after directing this film. Under his directorial tutelage, the individual characters not only come to life themselves but mesh famously with one another in humorous yet believable ways. This includes the anti-war U.S. general, played by "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini, to Gina McKee, the Cabinet secretary's director of communication, who is more interested in assisting constituents who resolve plumbing issues than diving into matters involving war and peace.

"In The Loop" received a U.S. Academy Award nod for best adapted screenplay, a worthy recognition for the screenplay. Quite like the cast itself, the screenplay was the offspring of a collaborative ensemble effort. Jesse Armstrong, Simon Backwell and Tony Roche teamed with director Iannucci to craft delectable dialog. Although notably laden with foul language from virtually all characters, the tone and tenor of the fast-paced script rings true. Despite the almost zany premise of a British cabinet minister accidentally all but declaring war while on television, not to mention the equally loopy subplots, the whole cinematic adventure plays out in a fashion that leaves a moviegoer nodding that he could see that happening.

The late James Gandolfini garnered well-deserved praise for his turn as Lt. General George Miller in "In The Loop." The general who wanted to forgo battle, at least in this case, becomes a willing co-conspirator with Foster after the Brit haphazardly announces his own support for war to a television audience on both sides of the pond.

Gandolfini truly takes a star turn through his impeccably timed delivery of lines such as "Just because I haven't shot someone in 15 years, I'm not a soldier? You know, the Army doesn't make you drag some bullet-ridden bloody corpse into the Pentagon every five years to renew your soldier's license!"

Tom Hollander plays Simon Foster, the British Cabinet minister and accidental militarist. In the United States, Hollander is regularly featured as a voice actor on the hit shows "American Dad" and "Family Guy." His television credits in the United Kingdom are long and extend back two decades. A slightly befuddled and yet consistently likable character, Hollander's Simon Foster is one who warrants audience empathy as he plods from one botched effort to the next. The manner in which Hollander plays Foster renders the whole idea of an accidental near declaration of war plausible.

Simon Foster's director of communications, Judy Molloy as portrayed by Gina McKee, is a particularly bright spot in this lively flick. Although Foster's role as a Cabinet minister is the focus of the events of the film, Foster by definition is a Member of Parliament with a constituency. Even as Foster inadvertently draws the world closer to the brink of war, his primary communications and media representative is far more concerned with dealing with constituents with blocked water pipes and collapsing retaining walls. Her performance is reminiscent of Anne Heche in "Wag the Dog," whose character is more concerned with ensuring that everyone involved in a shady plot to hoodwink the American public with a fake war is a U.S. citizen.

Blunders and unlikely alliances combine to form an entertaining adventure around the fringes of war and into the halls of power in the United States and the United Kingdom. Taut screenwriting, superb directions and a cast of uniquely talented players combine to craft an intriguing and smoothly entertaining satirical journey that plays off some of the most significant issues the international community has faced in recent years. "In The Loop" merits a watch.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5