In the Loop
Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Tue Apr 14 2009Cover your eyes: is this another well-loved sitcom dying an embarrassing death on the big screen? Far from it – Armando Iannucci has turned his satirical series ‘The Thick of It’ into a film that sparkles with the same filthy humour, spoken by the same morally empty vessels in the same mundane corridors of power that marked the brilliant TV version. Shaky cameras, bad suits and crappy furnishings don’t automatically equal documentary-style reality – but combined with smart performances and a politically astute script that wisely sidesteps specifics but feeds on the tenor of real events, they go a long way to achieving it. It’s also a welcome celebration of polished and engaged comic writing that very rarely feels laboured and always feels that it has a serious point to make amid the ample gags.
Iannucci and his team give the world of ‘The Thick of It’ a filmic spin by unfolding their story on either side of the Atlantic and guessing what may happen behind closed doors in Whitehall and Washington DC in the lead up to a contentious conflict in the Middle East. But much is familiar. Peter Capaldi returns as the Prime Ministerial attack dog Malcolm Tucker – think Alastair Campbell with rabies – and Chris Addison is again an ineffective Whitehall flunky whose lacks of scruples extend to blaming infidelity on his peacenik tendencies.
Tom Hollander very effectively picks up where Chris Langham left off: a fall guy for the conspiracies and gags of others, he’s the new, inexperienced, vaguely idealistic but vain Secretary of State for International Development who becomes a pawn for hawks and doves on either side of the pond when he accidentally supports and then denounces war in two disastrous media appearances. In Washington, James Gandolfini offers one of the film’s few moral centres as an army general against conflict because he’s been there and knows it’s horrific.
It’s not easy to transfer the spirit of a half-hour show to a feature film, and there are some chapters that drag, especially when Capaldi, who gets all the best lines, disappears from view. But mostly Iannucci keeps the pace up with snappy twists and turns, a tone that mixes screwball with precise observation and by keeping a keen eye on the performances of even minor characters, such as the over-achieving, barely legal automatons that pepper the offices of Washington. It’s a film that is both insanely funny and a desperate cry for sanity.
Author: Dave Calhoun
Cast and crew
Tony Roche, Simon Blackwell, Jesse Armstrong, Armando Iannucci
Mimi Kennedy, Anna Chlumsky, David Rasche, Peter Capaldi, Gina McKee, Tom Hollander, Steve Coogan, James Gandolfini, Chris Addison