In the Loop

In the LoopLast night, I tried to watch two films. I’ve been putting off watching Three Kings for some time, so I finally sat down to watch it. It seems partly based upon Kelly’s Heroes, which I don’t much like. But I have to say, Three Kings made me appreciate it more. This isn’t because of the film. It is about how the characters act. Regardless of how actual soldiers acted in World War II versus how they acted in the Persian Gulf War, the representations indicate that we are devolving. Put simply: we apparently don’t have to bomb a people back to the stone age to show them that we are assholes. After about a half hour I stopped watching the film. It isn’t that the film is not well made, I just wasn’t in the mood for it.

So I put on In the Loop. It is a comedy about the lead up to the Iraq War. It isn’t in any way accurate in the details, although I tend to think it is exactly right broadly speaking. Basically: there were a bunch of powerful people who really wanted to go to war so we did. The first two acts are very funny. Actually, the third act is very funny, I just didn’t laugh. It got too real and I got increasingly angry that these assholes pushed us into war and then managed to screw over everyone who showed the least sign of a soul or backbone. It does not have a happy ending because the Bush-Blair days were not happy. (I still have a great deal of anger toward Blair because I tend to think without his help, Bush could not have gone to war in Iraq; but I might be overestimating Bush.)

The highlights of the film are two actors. First, Peter Capaldi is Malcolm Tucker, the foul-mouthed alpha male Director of Communications. I first saw him in Local Hero where he played such a nice young man. Since then, he seems to have been type cast as a profane Scot. He is hilarious here, although you might want to put on the subtitles so you don’t miss any of the great writing. The second actor is the always wonderful Tom Hollander, who plays Simon Foster, the Secretary of State for International Development. He is a man who really believes in things. Except when he doesn’t. And he goes back and forth on this quite a lot. Here is perhaps the high point of the film where Simon is (quite rightly) chewing out his assistant for showing up at a meeting in his slept-in clothes after a hard night of drinking:

If you like British comedy, you can’t help but enjoy In the Loop. But if you are sometimes offended by the language I use on this site, you should avoid it. The film relishes in its obscenities.


On a related note, the much maligned film War Inc. is very good. My guess is that it will become popular over the next 20 years as people realize that if they don’t approach it as “the sequel to Grosse Pointe Blank” that it is brilliant social and political satire.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “In the Loop

  1. I hadn’t seen "Local Hero" in over 20 years when I watched "In The Loop," so I remembered Peter Capaldi from a BBC sci-fi miniseries where he played a simpering, ineffectual Prime Minister unable to deal with bullying aliens. He was very convincing as the weak PM — it was a joy to see him just as good playing a foul -mouthed control freak, high on his own energy.

    The ads and reviews claiming the movie was a "comedy" were utterly misleading. It’s a satire, and not a happy one. A lot closer to what I’ve read about modern politics, however, then most political movies which get praised for their insight. I liked the Brits being unable to tolerate American administration 25-year olds picked for ideological purity. (We know that these are exactly the types of twerps Bush did assign to many important roles, including the reconstruction of Iraq.)

    And I loved the last line. Gandolfini read it perfectly. They’re all playing the game of who has more influence than whom, and they all enjoy it, but one side also realizes that policies have consequences and the other doesn’t care. So when a turdburger from the winning, amoral side stops to gloat, what can you say? "Go fuck yourself, Frodo."

    I can see where "Three Kings" might be disturbing and depressing. I remember just being happy that someone put together a montage sequence of soldiers blaring "God Bless The USA" while behaving like assholes. That’s pretty much how Iraq War I was described to me by veterans who didn’t like it.

    The story IS "Kelly’s Heroes" (a staple on low-rent TV when I was a right-wing 9-year-old kid, one I never watched all the way through — as a kid, I preferred "The Guns Of Navarone.") And it’s rather ooky that a movie with a serious point (Iraq War I was deeply wrong, and II hadn’t been imagined yet) had to use such a cheesy, stories-for-9-year-old-boys plot device. (Can our daring heroes find the secret treasure hidden by diabolical Japanese kamakaze pilots? Find out in issue #3!)

    Needless to say (it’s a Clooney movie, and fifth-hand stories tell me he basically took over the direction after David O. Russell lost control of the set) the plot changes and the mercenary soldiers develop a conscience. Which isn’t handled in a cheesy, life-affirming, everything-will-be-OK way, it’s quite well done. I understand, however, why viewers might get very bothered by the setup.

    I don’t really have emotional reactions to movies anymore, which is one of the reasons I enjoy watching them with others who do. If a character is in danger, I don’t worry about their fate — it’s a movie, I assess coldly whether the script’s arc adequately made the character’s peril believable. So it’s great to get reactions from people who watch movies the way I used to, who get caught up in the feelings of the thing.

    These days, if I watch a skillful fiction movie with the SO, the SO has nightmares about the emotionally compelling story. If we watch a skillful documentary, I have nightmares about what those real-life people faced. (My nightmares after "Hot Coffee" would have freaked Kafka out.)

    In short, sorry I didn’t mention that both "In The Loop" and "Three Kings" were incredibly grim. I’ll try to be more forthright if I think of movie recs in the future. Of ones I can remember recommending recently, "Children Of Men" is possibly the grimmest movie ever made, while the Tom McCarthys ("The Visitor," "The Station Agent") are dark but definitely not grim. They might even pass for borderline uplifting; you can’t solve the world’s problems or even your own by reaching out to others, yet you can give yourself a bit more of a reason to exist. For me, that’s about as uplifting a message as I’ll believe.

  2. @JMF – I did see [i]The Visitor[/i], I just haven’t written about it. It is uplifting–more so than [i]The Station Agent[/i]. I really liked it.

    [i]In the Loop[/i] was very good. I did find it funny. It’s just that at a certain point I began to fret about what actually happened.

    I also liked the kids in the Bush administration. I remember that was especially true in the Iraq occupation. Rather than put seasoned bureaucrats in, they put in Patrick Henry College graduates who didn’t know anything but that America was a Christian nation.

    Peter Capaldi was playing a similar (but less extreme) character in [i]Magicians[/i]–a film I really like but then I love Mitchell and Web, and I’m a magic nerd.

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