The Good: Exceptionally funny, Decent acting, Disturbing and interesting plot
The Bad: No character development, Terrible sound quality, Somewhat buckshot plot
The Basics: In The Loop is very funny in its lines, but fails to coalesce into an coherent, quality film.
Not long ago, I was posting my review of the first season of the television show The Loop (reviewed here!) when I decided to see if the second season was available on DVD. When I went looking for it, I was surprised to discover the movie In The Loop at the top of my search results. Last night, my wife consented to watching the film (which I got in from my awesome local library and I might well have been the first person ever to take the movie out) when she checked out the trailer for the movie online and thought it looked funny. Unfortunately, most of the best lines from In The Loop are in the movie’s trailer.
During the Bush Administration, the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom was not only strained, but the U.S. manipulated the UK quite a bit. It’s nice having allies and the United States used that relationship in some pretty poor ways. The British response was well-presented in Love Actually (reviewed here!), which is appropriately referenced in In The Loop. For its part, In The Loop removes most of the relationship themes of Love Actually and presents instead a brutal – and brutally funny – satire of how the United States steamrollers the United Kingdom to get what it wants.
Sadly, In The Loop is not the best movie to illustrate the serious issues involved in foreign policy in the U.S. and UK. Instead, In The Loop is a collection of hilarious lines and a few absurd situations that are squeezed in opposite a serious political message. While it might seem like the height of satire, the execution of In The Loop is a lot more shaky than the concept.
At the root of the problem, In The Loop suffers from technical difficulties and a full array of utterly unlikable characters. The sound quality through much of In The Loop is just awful. Moreover, Peter Capaldi mumbles many of the movie’s best lines, making them indecipherable. Add to that that the characters range from utter idiots to Machiavellian strategists all working for their own corrupted goals and In The Loop is alternatively difficult to care about watching, hard to hear when one is into it and rip-roaringly hilarious lines of dialogue that are almost entirely detached from the rest of the movie. And, it is worth noting, I have absolutely no problem with the utterly foul language in In The Loop, so my complaints do not come from any Puritanical sensibilities about how the film could have been executed better.
Simon Foster is an idiot who is working in the UK communication department. On his first day working for Malcolm Tucker, he has to deal with a flub wherein he described war as inevitable on a radio program, which unfortunately ties the Prime Minister to warmongers in the U.S. When his assistant, Toby, tries to make things better for Simon by getting Simon into a meeting with the visiting Assistant Secretary of State from the United States, Simon only makes his statement worse. When Karen Clark, the Secretary, returns to the U.S., she is armed with the knowledge that her professional rival, Linton Barwick has already formed a de facto war committee.
Foster and Toby then head to the United States to sit in on the war committee meeting and try to set things right with Clark and the pacifists. As Toby and Simon blunder their way through the meetings, Malcolm arrives to try to take a stand with Barwick. With General Miller backing Clark and Foster’s stupidity causing things to spiral out of control, all hope seems to rest upon a memo that argues against going to war written by a White House staffer who knows that it takes a stand against Administration policy.
In The Loop is essentially a satire that illustrates what happens when a bunch of idiots in power want wars. Simon Foster is utterly moronic, so much so that many of his lines are illogical and incomprehensible. He starts sentences without clear ends to them and his metaphors are painfully belabored and often contradict what he appears to mean to say. Some of the funniest moments of In The Loop, though, come from the wordplay provided by Foster or in reaction to what he says.
When it is not being outrageously funny with In The Loop Malcolm Tucker stringing together long lines of profanities (some of which are the most inventive ever captured on film), the movie has more subtle, satirical moments. When Foster debates if it is more heroic to resign his job for peace or keep on doing something he does not believe in at all, Judy’s deadpan response is hilarious. No matter how many times she repeats her view while Foster goes through convoluted mental acrobatics to justify not resigning, Judy Molloy’s response is very funny.
While this all might sound like it comes together brilliantly, unfortunately, In The Loop does not. Amid the technical problems of Peter Capaldi (Malcolm) mumbling many of the funniest strings of threats and profanities, the sound quality is a serious issue. Beyond that, the fact that none of the characters are particularly likable makes it difficult to stick with the film for the almost two hour running time. While Judy is efficient and Karen is highly ethical, the rest of the characters suffer from severe deficiencies as they plot, scheme, lie and trip over themselves and each other. Judy, for example, does appear to be a powerful woman in a good position with a good head on her and she is characterized as arguably the dullest character in the movie.
Ultimately, In The Loop is funny, but it drags as Foster and Malcolm fly back and forth between London and the U.S. to alternatively try to stop a war and advocate one. In The Loop suffers because it is a wonderful idea that is problematically executed.
For other works featuring Peter Capaldi, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Smilla’s Sense Of Snow
Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere
For other movie reviews, please be sure to visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!
© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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