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"In the Loop"

"In the Loop"
a film review by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

Once upon a time, there were some minutes of an important meeting in a high place of a big nation. The minutes were leaked in a memo to a big newspaper in the big nation and the big newspaper published them. The printed document about the meeting in a high place was the first time it was possible for anyone to know the truth about what second big nation along with the first big nation did considering whether or not to make war on a third smaller nation.

Since then, there has been more information to come out that tells other government secrets about this matter as well as people who have actually tattled on other people who made mistakes and were caught in "pants-on-fire" lies.

This has all come to a place now where a British man has made a movie that's very funny and, in what grownups call satire, makes fun of the nations and governments and adults who made the wrong choice about the matter of having a war. And the movie never mentions particular people in high places making specific decisions, telling lies or even the name of the smaller third nation that might or might not be invaded and probably occupied.

Therefore, I can't imagine whether "In the Loop," is just a foul-mouthed fairy tale or a very slick satire about real people and situations, but written so that no one knows for sure if it relates to anything that might actually have happened. But, here are some comments about the movie anyway.

Armando Iannucci, who's well known across the pond for his BBC TV series, "The Thick of It," has joined with other writers, Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche, then directed a speed-of-light, handheld and farcically-infused black comedy about what happens when self-absorbed, ass-kissing, career-minded bureaucrats of every stripe try to spin, one way or another, whether the UK and the USA are going to make war on that unnamed nation mentioned in the story-hour segment of this review.

A lower echelon, rather wussy British Minister, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) flubs when he claims into a BBC microphone that "war is unforeseeable." His boss who is also the PM's Director of Communications does an English Breakfast freak out when he hears Foster's comment on the Beeb. Peter Capaldi frantically plays that part. Malcolm Tucker is the character's name. And f*ck is his word of choice---in nearly every sentence he utters.

Tom Hollander

Tom Hollander doesn't appreciate F-bombs

Director Tucker speaks faster and more coarsely as his anger reaches a place well over the point where he merely acts like the a-hole he usually is to his subordinates. "Unforeseeable" used by Foster in this context has the taint of pacifism, even peace-nickery.

International back-channel fur begins flying when it comes out that in a committee meeting that important UK and USA bureaucrats have been considering how to posture themselves on how much to pro and/or con the whole idea of a new conflict in a place where conflict is surely no stranger.

"In the Loop" doesn't take on the gravity of Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove," but it approaches it for just how absurd persons in positions of power can get when under enough stress to compete while covering one's arse. Let's just say consequences that might be produced by the loopy characters in "Loop" are less grim than in Kubrick's masterpiece.

James Gandolfini, like George C. Scott in "Strangelove," adroitly plays a US general officer. But General George Miller is a dove, not the consummate hawk General Buck Turgidson remembered in Kubrick's 1964 film. General Miller is a strong supporter of the troops, but feels the war in question is not a good idea, although the General finds it necessary to posture himself a bit more hawkish than he is.

Mimi Kennedy and James Gandolfini

Mimi Kennedy and James Gandolfini

Everyone involved in this diplomatic fracas scurries to land in the appropriate place on the matter to look as job-secure and loyal as is possible given the tenuous circumstances of the issue at hand.

Taking the most jingoistic positions are Director Tucker and an American bureaucrat played exceptional well by David Rasche. He's a Secretary for US Diplomacy named Linton Barwick. With Rumsfeldian dash, Sec'y Barwick keeps a live hand grenade on his desk for use as a paperweight.

Barwick's assistant is Karen Clark. Mimi Kennedy of "Dharma and Greg" has this role. She smart, fashionable and sassy and had an affair with General Miller some where in the distance past for which both still carry considerable and amusing baggage.

Sec'y Clark's aide is a sexy and pretty well grown up young woman played by Anna Chlumsky, the "My Girl" gal of the 90s. Her character is Lisa Weld who's blamed for the minutes leakage made to that big newspaper in that big nation. Ms. Weld is also taken, during off-hours, to trysting with one of Minister Foster's male aides called Toby Wright (Chris Addison). Surely, these must be what are called Anglo-American relations.

Anna Chlumsky

Anna Chlumsky

A string of brilliant Brits follow the lineage on the UK's team of bureaucrats. They're almost too numerous to mention, but deserving, all, of generous praise for their speed-reading of lines and ability to wring laughs from an audience in their amazing yet absurd characters.

Nuclear annihilation is the consequence of "Dr. Strangelove." "In the Loop," in its laudable, speedy, "f*ck you" efficiency, left me wondering why none of these important, well-educated, well-paid public servants, in their many meetings taken, don't seem to be giving any thought to what's best for the public at large. That's a lot less consequential than global nuclear war, but it does make one think. Or at least it should.

"In the Loop" official site.

Opens 9/4 at the Circle Cinema in Tulsa.

Check Yahoo Movies-Tulsa for theaters and times.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2009, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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