If In the Loop proves one thing, it's that filth and intelligence aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. As foul-mouthed a political satire as you'll ever see, this comedic gem from the UK is as noteworthy for its hysterically vile dialogue as it is for its surprisingly insightful impaling of the machinations of war politics.
In the Loop centers on a small core of mid-level government ministers and secretaries on both the British and American sides of the pond. The Americans are itching to invade an unnamed Middle Eastern country, and when Simon Foster, the UK's well-meaning but easily befuddled minister for foreign development (Pirates of the Carribbean's Tom Hollander) is forced to comment on the UK's potential involvement, his off-script statement of war being "unforeseeable" sends the PM's communications director into a tizzy of rancid expletives, and makes him a lightning rod for both sides of the war agenda. Foster wants nothing more than to dig himself out from under the mess, but his earnest yet enfeebled attempts to do so just cause it to grow exponentially.
The movie takes place in both London and Washington, and we're privy to both sides of the potential war effort. Each government has its yeasayers and naysayers, and ultimately it all becomes a matter of who is willing to bully their position the hardest. The biggest bully is easily the aforementioned communications director, who is played by Peter Capaldi in a performance that is perhaps best compared to that of a rabid Scottish pit bull. Capaldi is simply unbelievable as he hurls one exquisitely crafted torrent of foulness after another at anyone and everyone that dares get too close to his general orbit. He is of that rare breed that could threaten to, say, "Pop a jaunty little bonnet on your purview and ram it up your shitter with a lubricated horse cock ," and make you believe he was quite easily capable of turning that hyperbolic statement literal.
The rest of the cast doesn't have a slouch among them. On the UK side, Foster is joined by a newbie assistant played by Chris Addison, who does more than his share of mucking things up as well, albeit with a bit more of a good-natured detachment from the whole endeavor. The American anti-war effort is represented by Mimi Kennedy's secretary of diplomacy, and James Gandolfini's surprisingly pacifist Pentagon general. Some of their exchanges, clean as they are compared to the bulk of everyone else's dialogue, are the most incredible, as they quietly, desperately try to put the brakes on this whole thing.
Their chief adversary is a State Department goon played by David "Sledgehammer " Rasche. Rasche has had a good run playing various types of government stooges as of late (see also: Burn After Reading, Flags of Our Fathers ), and he's positively slimy here in the best way possible. And then at some point Steve Coogan randomly shows up as one of Foster's deranged constituents, and the whole thing just turns positively euphoric.
In the Loop is spawned from a BBC TV series called The Thick of It , and it was written and directed by the same principals. No prior knowledge of the series is needed to appreciate it, however. I'd never seen it before, and I was immediately pulled into this ridiculously, terrifyingly hilarious world that at times, feels almost a little too real. That's the thing with political satire: When it's done really well, you'll often find yourself as horrified as you are amused by the situations presented, because you actually start wondering if politics really play out like this. The film's skewering of the business of selling war is as bizarre-yet-pointed as Barry Levinson's brilliant Wag the Dog , and its evisceration of the nature of the modern day political relationship between the US and UK is positively brutal.
But first and foremost, In the Loop is just exceptionally funny. Like, funniest movie of 2009 funny. Certainly any movie can use crassness as a crutch in place of cleverness, but it takes a special kind of genius to make a film cleverly crass. In the Loop is such a film. It never hits a single wrong note, and its frenetic, foul energy just builds and builds toward a climax that, given everything that's taken place, is utterly pitch perfect. In the name of lubricated horse cock, seek this movie out.