"In the Loop": "Dr. Strangelove" for a New Generation

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Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) and Lt. Gen. George Miller (James Gandolfini) go toe-to-toe.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was the big winner at the weekend box office, but a much different war movie barely registered a blip. The savage political comedy from Britain In the Loop, which is in limited release, is worth a look. Heck, it's this generation's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Directed by Glasgow-born Italian Scot Armando Iannucci and written by Jesse Armstrong and Simon Blackwell (with help from Iannucci, Tony Roche and Ian Martin), In the Loop is actually spun from the cult BBC series The Thick of It, which Iannucci created and co-wrote. The movie hilariously follows some of the behind-the-scenes political operatives, also-rans and errand boys and girls who make Downing Street and Pennsylvania Avenue tick . . . like a time bomb.

Hapless British Secretary of State for International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) attempts to non-answer his way through a radio interviewer's question about the possibility of an unspecified Middle East war. But his vagueness is seized upon by hawks and doves on both sides of the pond to justify their own desires for war or peace. The more Foster tries to put the genie back into the military industrial complex bottle, the worse it gets. Especially for his career.

Among those engaged in the tug of war are James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) as a war-hating Army lieutenant general, Mimi Kennedy (Dharma & Greg) as a Hillary Clintonesque advocate for diplomacy and Anna Chlumsky (My Girl) as Kennedy's put-upon aide. Much of their frustration involves getting into the secret war meeting that's not called a war meeting so they can state their objections to bloodshed.

However, the standout performances come from ruthless hawks David Rasche, as the Cheneyesque Defense Department plotter Linton Barwick, and especially Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker, Capaldi's profanity-spewing British P.M. communications director character from The Thick of It. He manages to say fuck so often in so many ever-more colorful and sadistic ways that one wonders what would be left of his harangues in a censored network television broadcast of In the Loop.  

Also look for brief bits by a barely recognizable Steve Coogan (Tropic Thunder), who was inept TV broadcaster Alan Partridge in the Iannucci-created BBC programs The Day Today, Knowing Me, Knowing You and I'm Alan Partridge. They are apparently working on bringing that British TV show to the big screen as well. Based on In the Loop, that should be worth checking out as well.

IN THE LOOP IS NOW PLAYING AT REGENCY'S SOUTH COAST VILLAGE, SANTA ANA; REGENCY'S RANCHO NIGUEL, LAGUNA NIGUEL; AND THE ART THEATRE, LONG BEACH.

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