In the Loop is Armando Iannucci for newbies (which isn’t a bad thing)

peter capaldi malcom tucker in the loop

I’m a big fan of Armando Iannucci and his vein of political comedy.  For those unfamiliar with Iannucci’s take on politics, his thesis is that people in positions of power (politicians, generals, even the president and the prime minister) are every bit as petty as the average middle manager in the corporate world.  In other words, imagine The Office, except Michael Scott – or David Brent, since this is after all a British production – is Secretary of State rather than regional manager.

Despite the premise, this joke actually wears thin after a while.  There are only so many times you can watch someone important do something awful before it gets repetitive (there’s a fine line between a hilarious and an interminable episode of his two very similar TV shows, Veep and The Thick of It).  Luckily, Iannucci assembles an impeccable cast, and most of the jokes rely less on the premise and more on the strength of the actors executing it.  As a fan of both Veep and The Thick of It, it’s interesting to see the two casts basically collide.  Said cast also delivers some of the best one-liners ever written, with Peter Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker stealing every scene.

As for the plot itself, the best thing about it is that it gives Iannucci’s cast a lot to work with.  As satire, it’s pretty toothless, or at least feels so today (and likely did in 2009 when released).  While implying that the invasion of Iraq was a colossal farce would have been controversial in 2004 or 2005, these days it just represents what everyone assumes happened anyway.

That said, In the Loop is a good introduction to Iannucci.  It’s got all of the ingredients that make his TV shows great, and ends before anything gets stale.  But don’t let this be the last Iannucci you see.  If you like your political comedy crueler, try The Thick of It; more offensive, try Veep.

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