In The Loop

Dom Robinson reviews

In The Loop The fate of the world is on the line.
Distributed by
Optimum Home Entertainment Blu-ray:
DVD:

  • Cert:
  • Running time: 106 minutes
  • Year: 2009
  • Cat no: OPTBD1562R0
  • Released: August 2009
  • Region(s): 2, PAL
  • Chapters: 12 plus extras
  • Picture: 1080p High Definition
  • Sound: DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio Lossless
  • Languages: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Widescreen: 1.85:1
  • 16:9-Enhanced: Yes
  • Macrovision: Yes
  • Disc Format: BD50
  • Price: £24.99 (Blu-ray); £17.99 (DVD)
  • Extras: Deleted Scenes, Interviews, Script to Screen comparison, Trailer, Webisodes, Audio commentary, Audio description
  • Vote and comment on this film: View Comments

    Director:

      Armando Iannucci

    (In The Loop, TV: 2004: The Stupid Version, I’m Alan Partridge, The Armando Iannucci Shows, Clinton: His Struggle With Dirt, The Thick Of It, Time Trumpet, Tube Tales)

Producers:

    Kevin Loader and Adam Tandy

Screenplay:

    Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin and Tony Roche

Cast :

    Malcolm Tucker: Peter Capaldi
    Simon Foster: Tom Hollander
    Toby Wright: Chris Addison
    Judy: Gina McKee
    Lt Gen George Miller: James Gandolfini
    Liza Weld: Anna Chlumsky
    Bob Adriano: Enzo Cilenti
    Jamie MacDonald: Paul Higgins
    Karen Clarke: Mimi Kennedy
    Linton Barwick: David Rasche
    Sir Jonathan Tutt: Alex Macqueen
    AJ Brown: Johnny Pemberton
    Suzy: Olivia Poulet
    Roz: Joanna Scanlan
    Michael Rodgers: James Smith
    Paul Michaelson: Steve Coogan
    Chad: Zach Woods
    New advisor: Will Smith
    New MP: Imelda Staunton


In The Loop is effectively the film version of BBC4’s The Thick Of It, a fantastic semi-improvised comedy directed and co-written by one of the best and most consistent in the business in the UK today, Armando Iannucci.

As the film begins, Radio 4’s Eddie Mair talks Minister for International Development, Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), who was only there to talk about preventable diseases, into a discussion on plans for a US invasion of the Middle East, as if that would happen? 😉

Simon says he thinks the war is unforseeable, which leads to Malcolm to say out loud to himself, “No, you do not think that”, then calling up Radio 4 and telling them that Simon didn’t actually say that… and that while they may have heard it, he didn’t actually say it. He’ll also have to go on Question Time and backtrack on the issue.

Yes, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) is in full effect, and Simon is going to find those words coming back to haunt him several times.

For those new to the series, Malcolm is the Director of Communications for No.10, aka the No.10 Enforcer/spin doctor. He makes decisions on behalf of the Prime Minister, or at least for as long as he can get away with it. Judy Molloy (Gina McKee) works alongside Foster as the Director of Communications for International Development, while Toby Wright (Chris Addison, right with Capaldi) is also brought in to work with the aforementioned MP.

In the US, the key characters are Karen Clark (Mimi Kennedy), US Assistant Secretary for Diplomacy; Liza Weld (Anna Chlumsky), one of her aides, who knows Toby from University, intimately; Linton Barwick (Sledge Hammer‘s David Rasche) who has formed a secret War committee but has changed the name so no-one finds out about it… for a while; and Lt General George Miller (James Gandolfini, below-right with Mimi Kennedy), Senior Military Assistant in the Pentagon who has seen action in war in the past and says it’s not somewhere you want to go again… “like France”.

The cast is rounded off with Jamie MacDonald (Paul Higgins), who works under Malcolm; Paul Michaelson (Steve Coogan, bottom-right with Joanna Scanlan as Roz) as a member of the public in Foster’s constituency who’s having a problem with a wall at his Mum’s house which is on the verge of collapsing into her garden and crushing her greenhouse – the issue being that the wall *belongs* to Foster; and Michael Rodgers (James Smith), Director of Diplomacy, who plays his classical music far too loud for everyone. Smith’s character also worked alongside Chris Langham who appeared in the original series of six episodes which were split into two lots of three, due to how they were made.

Obviously Chris Langham is no longer ‘in the loop’ as he wasn’t in the two specials that followed the original six episodes, due to his conviction. While I wouldn’t make excuses for him obviously, he bared his soul on Shrink Rap with Pamela Stephenson and was clearly regretful for what he’d done. He hadn’t killed anyone, yet he’s persona non grata to the BBC. That didn’t stop them hiring Leslie Grantham for Eastenders after he’d killed a taxi driver. But I digress.


The Thick Of It always had consultants to make sure everything that goes on behaves in the same way to that in real life for the government, and this spin-off is no exception. One subject which rears its ugly head briefly here is that is MPs expenses and porno films. In fact, Armando Iannucci has said that when they wrote the script a year before the Jacqui Smith story broke about her husband’s viewing habits, they thought it was so outlandish and no such thing could ever happen, and then along came Smith’s husband ordering porn films on expenses just prior to the film’s release at the cinema! You couldn’t make it up!

The weirdest thing is that in The Thick Of It, Chris Addison played general dogsbody Oliver Reeder… whereas here he’s called Toby Foster. Erm… why? He’s basically the same character – especially since he’s got the same girlfriend! – but under a different name suddenly appears new to Malcolm. What was that change all about?

Similarly, Olivia Poulet plays his girlfriend Emma Messinger in the TV series, working alongside Michael Rodgers, whereas here she’s Suzy. Huh? This is all going to sound a bit cock-eyed when the series returns later this year.

Malcolm gets the best of the quotes with just about everything he says, while Chris Addison gets one or two and so does Paul Higgins as Malcolm’s almost-as-sweary underling, Jamie MacDonald, when he refers to Michael Rodgers’ classical aria music as “It’s just vowels! Subsidised foreign fucking vowels!”

Malcolm also gets shocked into silence on a couple of occasions by high-up members of the American government, which is the only time we’ve seen him quiet since the original series began!

At around 1:22 into the film, there’s a moment, which I can’t reveal here as it would spoil a plotline, but I’m sure the person who admits something was also the same person in The Thick Of It who did something equally damaging, so perhaps rather than a follow-on from the series, this film is also a slight reboot in that it’s renamed two of its characters as well.

And I never knew there was a Facebook Chess game until I heard it mentioned in this film.

Reportedly 4½ hours of footage were shot for this film, or at least that’s how it came out in the initial edit. Overall, In The Loop is very good, but less is more, and 106 minutes is rather too long. It works better as a 30-min show or the odd 60-min special. On the TV show there’s more diversity in the cast members, whereas here it’s the same people again and again.


Shot on hand-held digital cameras, this gives the right feeling to this film and keeps it perfectly in sync with the TV series and it comes across brilliantly crisp and clear with the England office scenes looking as dull and despressing as the flourescent lighting is meant to make it feel, and the outdoor scenes looking bright and colourful. The film is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen frame. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 37″ Plasma screen via a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.

The sound is in DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio Lossless and is really only used for dialogue, which comes across without a hitch. This obviously isn’t a special FX film.

The extras are as follows:

  • Deleted Scenes (26:59): Stacks of scenes, split into 28 chapters, so there’s far more than 28 clips in this supplmental. It’s ironic that there’s far more chapters in this piece than there is in the whole of the film itself!

  • Interviews: Some great ones here with Chris Addison and Gina McKee (10:54), Tom Hollander (7:37), Peter Capaldi (9:01) and Armando Iannucci (14:02).

  • Script-to-screen comparison (8:25): Script on one side and screen on the other, comparing what was in the script with what was in the final cut of the film. Several scenes featured but not individually chaptered between them.

  • Trailer (1:51): Presented in anamorphic 1.85:1.

  • Webisodes (12:33): Four each for “Chad and Toby”, “A Day in the Life of the State Department” and “Jamie MacDonald, The Crossest Man in Scotland”. These are all segments from either the finished film or the deleted scenes.

  • Audio Commentary: from director Armando Iannucci plus Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Chris Addison and Gina McKee.

  • Audio Description: Another optional feature-length extra.

The menu has a small amount of animation early on before mixing a bit more with quotes from the film, there are English subtitles but the Chaptering is, again for Optimum, appalling with just 12 over the near-two hours.

FILM CONTENT
PICTURE QUALITY
SOUND QUALITY
EXTRAS


OVERALL
Review copyright © Dominic Robinson, 2009. View the discussion thread.blog comments powered by Disqus = 0) {query += ‘url’ + i + ‘=’ + encodeURIComponent(links[i].href) + ‘&’;}}document.write(”);})();//]]]]>]]>

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