Sunday, January 17, 2010

Underrated Movie #15: In the Loop

Yes, it's time for our first ever Cockeyed Caravan Theme Week! Let's do some Recent Movies:

Title: In the Loop
Year: 2009
Director: Armando Iannucci (“I’m Alan Partridge”)
Writers: Armando Iannucci, Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Ian Martin, and Tony Roche
Stars: Peter Capaldi (“The Thick of It”), James Gandolfini (“The Sopranos”), Tom Hollander (Pirates of the Caribbean sequels), Anna Chulmsky (My Girl), David Rasche (Burn After Reading), Steve Coogan (Tristram Shandy)

The Story: Naïve bumblers in London and Washington try to inject some sense into an aggressive war build-up. The powers-that-be cheerfully chew them up and spit them out.

How it Came to be Underrated: IFC Films seemed like they didn’t know how to market their own movie. There’s still a sense that the public is allergic to political movies, so they just pushed it as an absurd comedy. Yes, it’s very funny, but nobody seeing the trailers would have guessed that was the smartest screenplay of the year.

Why It’s Great:

  1. Right off the bat, I knew I was in good hands when the new recruit heads off to walk to work and his girlfriend says absently “Be careful—cars…” He responds dryly “Oh? Really? Thanks for that.” Okay, we’re safe, this screenwriter is listening to how people actually communicate.
  2. Anyone watching the news in the last decade has wondered what these people could be thinking. Iannucci has been paying attention and he’s discovered the truth: politicians are a group of extremely juvenile people making very adult decisions. Capaldi’s Director of Communications is an open faucet of intimidating profanity, but he’s gradually forced to see that he’s the ultimate chump. In politics as in life, if you know how to stoke someone’s vanity, you can jerk them around like a dog on a leash.
  3. I love that none of the characters end up where you expect them to. We know how it’s going to end, but we’re surprised by how it plays out. Some heroes turn out to be villains, some villains turn out to be heroes.

  4. Iannucci has an amazing ear for the way in which information percolates and leaks and flows. Statements that please the powerful get seized on and repeated, while unfortunate facts get ridiculed out of existence. Everybody likes to hear themselves speak, but all the decisions have already been made. Actually, it’s worse than that—nothing will be allowed to get better, but the door is always open for things to get worse. The only ones that survive are the dogmatists who skip happily from lily pad to lily pad, while everyone who tries to stop and think just sinks down into the swamp. As Rasche says “the man with one fact is king.”

Underrated Compared To: that flood of earnest policy dramas that convinced people there was nothing interesting to say about modern warmaking.

If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out: This movie spun out of a British miniseries called “The Thick of It,” which I haven’t seen yet, though I suspect it’s great. My favorite example of sharp recent British comedy was a sketch show called “That Mitchell and Webb Look”, which is available instantly from Netflix even though it’s not available on dvd in America.

How Available Is It?: This movie, on the other hand, just came out on dvd, but it’s not available instantly.

Today’s Post Was Brought To You By: Float on Air!

(Confession: I actually ordered this one out of the back of a comic book when I was five. It was just a set of instruction on how to build your own hovercraft. My parents torpedoed my plans when they wouldn't let me dismantle the vacuum cleaner. Did anyone else order these types of things?)


Unknown said...

Peter Capaldi's turn as Malcolm has granted him hero status here in the UK, this was mainly due to the TV series, (which is pure genius) and of course his way with the flow of inventive profanities, I am assured that there is a dedicted writer or deviser of such profanities on the show. The full on swearing may of course be why you have not seen it yet on your US TV screens perhaps HBO will run it eventually, I hope so for all of your sakes it is one of the best series ever?

Dan McCoy said...

It was on BBC America a year or two ago. And, yes, it's great.

Anonymous said...

My hovercraft is full of eels.