Sunday, September 13, 2009

In the Loop

This scathingly, profane look at the events leading up to the Iraq war is a must-see for jaded policy wonks. If The West Wing is your idea of good political drama, be prepared to bitch-slapped into reality. In the Loop features an array of bureaucratic bullies, idiots, game players, blackmailers and bull$@#%.

Take the back-room machinations of The Deal and add the lunacy of Monty Python's Flying Circus and you've got an idea of the twisted sickness of this film. You won't recognize most of the cast, but they are all uniformly excellent. Players that may be familiar: David Rasche as the hawkish Senator, James Gandolfini as a pacifist General, Steve Coogan as a British constituent and Mimi Kennedy who is outstanding as spoiler Senator Karen Clarke. Another familiar face is that of Anna Chlumsky--all grown up--as a junior staffer.

There are no starry-eyed romantics looking to save the world here, although the film mocks the American obsession with youth. "You know they're all kids in Washington? It's like Bugsy Malone, but with real guns," notes a British bureaucrat. Later British politician Malcolm Tucker storms out of a briefing with a 22 year-old aide and fumes to Senator Barwick:

Malcolm Tucker: I've just come from a briefing with a nine-year-old child.

Linton Barwick: You're talking about AJ. AJ is one of our top guys. He's a Stanton College Prep, Harvard. One of the brightest and best.

Malcolm Tucker: Well, his briefing notes were written in alphabetti spaghetti. When I left, I nearly tripped up over his fucking umbilical cord.

Linton Barwick: I'm sorry it troubles you that our people achieve excellence at such an early age. But could we just move on to what's important here? Now, I understand that your Prime Minister has asked you to supply us with some, say, fresh British intelligence, is that true?

Malcolm Tucker: Yeah, apparently, your fucking master race of highly-gifted toddlers can't quite get the job done...

Linton Barwick: All right.

Malcolm Tucker: ...between breast feeds and playing with their Power Rangers. So, an actual grown-up has been asked to fucking bail you out.
That's just a sample of the unceasing biting wit that makes the film so damn funny--and so painfully true. The only explosions are the short-fused rants of bitter bureaucrats; the only deaths are career-suicides--but in many ways In the Loop is a far scarier war movie than The Hurt Locker or Stop-Loss.

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