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Cinema Signal: Not quite a green light but has elements of strong appeal for a limited audience.
. "In the Loop"

It's almost unfair to say anything specific about this madcap adventure in political satire--it would ruin a lot of the shock value for those who haven't seen it yet. The initial adjustment you have to make in the first few minutes is a large part of the outrageous fun of the almost impossible-to-believe serio-comic takeoff on international politics at a certain time in history.

Starting on Downing Street, the residence of the British government, this no-holds-barred re-creation of political dynamics in the corridors of power extends to the United States Congress, as well. These stately institutional edifices, however, are nothing more than props for what's to follow, for this is where the egos, semi-scandals, game-playing, profanity and spin-doctoring is so manically derived from political reality.

If what's represented here is anything close to the actual thing, you'd sooner flush your next ballot down the water closet than punch out the chads. This is the democratic process run amok, the delusional, nightmare version in which nothing rules in these halls of power like the "can you top this?" insult.

As a piece of docudrama, its appeal for actors had to have been, in part, co-writers Harold Manning and Jesse Armstrong's crackling diatribes that are the ultimate in profane putdowns--great meat for thespians to sink their fangs into. Who can resist using the nastieth filth in the English language to run a country?

Set at the time George Bush and Tony Blair were leading the west into an invasion, acclaimed TV director Armando Iannuci takes us off the pages of his satirical BBC sitcom, "The Thick of It" into a feature-length battle of wits--dim, quick and halfs--down in the lower ministries where the games of coercion is going on amidst the efforts for some reason and order that remain consistently elusive.

What gets it all off to a steaming start is inept goverment minister Simon Foster (Tom Hollander, "Valkyrie") stumbling to answer a question in a TV interview about the highly controversial idea of going to war and indicating, against all party policy to remain uncommited, that... uh... it was all right... he was for it. This immediately brings the heavenly wrath of communications chief Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi, "The Thick of It" BBC TV) who, when he learns of it after greeting his office staff with "good morning, my little chicks and cocks," goes into a cataclysmic rage which knows no boundaries of excess or decorum. This guy is a one-man obscenity machine.

Confused and hurt, Simon deals with the attack and his limited ability to understand the political storm he's created and, soon, damage control takes them to Washington, DC where Lt. Gen. George Miller (James Gandolfini), an intimidating, outsize presence in a three-star uniform, candidly asserts that anyone who thinks going to war is a good idea is an idiot. Bully that he is, the effect he makes with his air of superiority and demeaning rejoinders lasts about as long as a Tony Soprano confession.

The U.S. Asst. Secretary for Diplomacy Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy) does her best to infiltrate the hawkish "War Committee" to put a wrench into their planning discussions while Simon's awkward young spin doctor Toby Wright (Chris Addison) adds his elements of confusion to what's going on and scores big by getting to go to bed with very sexy intern Liza Weld (very sexy Anna Chlumsky, "House Rules"), a major highlight of his young life and of the film.

This ultimate in political satire in the Bush-Blair war era earns an impressive quota of belly-laughs from its fast-paced language of the gutter (with British accents) while taking down any misconceptions we may have about our and their elected and appointed officials whose serious purposes are no more deserving of special regard than a slip-of-the-tongue feeding the idiocy of war.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Peter Capaldi as government minister Malcolm Tucker has a few pieces of sterling vulgarity
for Chris Addison, his spin doctor Toby Wright.

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