Film Review: In The Loop (2009)

on Saturday, March 06, 2010
Words: Paul Dean

When I first tapped out a short review of this film, I wrote that it was my hope the IMDB's "memorable quotes" for 'In The Loop' would simply reprint the entire dialogue. In truth, I expected it to be a moderate success and largely pass the non-British markets by.

Who overseas had seen 'The Thick Of It'? How many people would be put off by the films constant and explosive expletives, or hold no interest for the political plot or for the British system of government? I was nothing less than delighted when, instead, I heard it had secured an Oscar nomination for its writing after meeting with strong and sustained critical praise, all of which is deserved. It was without doubt my film of 2009.

Conceptually identical to 'The Thick Of It', albeit with a number of different characters, 'In The Loop' is largely about political confusion, mismanagement and incompetence, all of which is chased down or hushed up by the whirling tornado of abuse that is Malcom Tucker. Tucker is something of a Whitehall sheepdog, marshalling and organising civil servants and ministers, though in this analogy he is without doubt a rottweiler rather than a collie.

A great deal of the humour comes from his relentless reorganisation of the same stock swear words into ever more elaborate and ingenious personal insults. On the surface of it, 'In The Loop' might seem largely like a comedy of insults, but to believe so is to miss the bigger picture. While Tucker's dialogue may be so sharp that it's positively cutting, it works so well because of how it's interleaved with the ever-growing dalliances, disorganisation and delusion of those he berates and bullies.

All Tucker's rage and remonstration is thanks to a couple of ill-considered soundbites that threaten grow into an international incident, with both the stakes and the swearing gradually building, and most of the film is the constant juxtaposition of the devious and the foolish, of intelligence and idiocy, with no obvious clues as to who or what will win out. You can't help but be alternately chuckling and squirming.

It's very tempting simply to quote 'In The Loop' over and over, if not for fun, then at least to try to illustrate the fantastic quality of its writing. However, I'm going to exercise all the restraint I have and let you discover your own favourite Tuckerisms. I strongly urge you to be "in the loop" this weekend, otherwise I really think you're missing out.

'In The Loop' is on BBC2 at 22.00 on Sunday and is also out now on DVD/Blu-Ray.

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