Tuesday, 15 December 2009


I've recently become a fan of The Thick Of It, a BBC political comedy. It is quite entertaining, and by far the funniest character is that of Malcolm Tucker, a government spin doctor with one of the most creative and foulest mouths I've ever seen. His swearing couldn't possibly be offensive because it is so darned funny. It would appear that the show has been happening every two years since 2005, making this the third season.

This year, however, there was a feature film from the same people, entitled In The Loop. From what I can tell from what I have seen of the show, many of the actors seem to be same, though not necessarily playing the same characters (something I found marginally discombobulating to start with when watching the film...) Lucky for us, however, Peter Capaldi returns as Malcolm.

I've got to say, it felt like an extended episode of The Thick Of It. I kept expecting it to end. It seemed to go on for much longer than it did. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, and maybe that's simply due to the fact that I think I had literally watched the latest episode the day before.

The film concerns a British cabinet minister heading over to the States with spin doctor and communications officer in tow, joining conversations regarding war after his slip-up in which he said it was 'unforeseeable', followed by a baffling media address that didn't answer any questions but did provide catch-phrases for his governmental opposites in Washington, D.C. The ministers as portrayed in The Thick Of It (and repeated here) always seem to be tremendously incapable of doing anything right, and Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) is no exception. He does, however, find himself asked to join the secret War Committee, which, due to incompetence again from the British side, quickly become common knowledge, therefore not a secret.

It's kind of hard to describe the film or the series. It is a series of running gags. The intelligence hidden within the comedy brings to mind a series such as The West Wing but with much more blasphemy and disrespect for, well, everyone. There is a cohesive story somewhere hidden underneath the crude surface, having something to do with spin and the inner workings of politics, I'm sure. Capaldi is great in the film, truly irrepressible, Hollander does well, Gina McKee is solid as British communication worker Judy, James Gandolfini seems a little bored playing Lt. Gen. George Miller, and Chris Addison as Toby reprises a very similar character (though not the same one! Oh no!) as he does in the series. Anna Chlumsky is another highlight (she was the little girl in My Girl! Oh how cute) as Toby's American equivalent, working underneath Mimi Kennedy's Karen Clarke, someone who is half-under-secretary-twice-removed to some US cabinet department (I have no idea how any of that works, so I can't hope to get it right.)

All in all, though, it dragged a little for me. I just wanted Capaldi on screen to come out with an impressive piece of vitriol that would inspire me to better my insults and become, all in all, a better person. It all seemed a little middling to me, nothing too great, nothing too bad, just quite comfortable to tread along softly and hope for the best. I definitely think the concept works better as a half-hour serial once a week. 2.5 stars.

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