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Witty political wordplay is 'In the Loop'

With the possible exception of "Wag the Dog," political satire doesn't spew caustic comedy any darker than what you'll find in the British import "In the Loop."

Unless you're familiar with BBC programming, you might think of this raucous rapid-fire verbal barrage as "The Office" of political bumbling.

That's not far from the truth, really.  "In the Loop," however, is a cousin to the British TV political comedy "The Thick of It," which ran from 2005-2007.

In fact, some of the cast makes the leap to the big screen in writer-director Armando Iannucci's spoof of the British and U.S. political machine.

Assisted by a trio of writers, Iannucci also aims sharp barbs at the 24-hour world news cycle and how it can be manipulated by clever spin doctors, or just run wild on an ill-advised phrase.

Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), Great Britain's minister for international development, sets a potential doomsday situation in motion when he mentions during a radio interview that a U.S. war in the Middle-East is "unforeseeable."

Foster, not the sharpest mind in British government, was invited on the program to discuss the war against diarrhea in the Third World.  The fact that the minister was on the radio talking about diarrhea at all throws Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), the prime minister's director of communications, in an uproar. 
When Tucker hears the mention of war in the Middle-East, the U.K.'s top communications spin doctor goes into a ballistic tirade.

If you're familiar with the verbal spewings of Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House on the Fox medical drama "House," you have some idea of what you're in for here.  Imagine that kind of verbal outburst laced with rapid-fire profanity bombs and you'll have a better understanding of what's going on.

At least "In the Loop" lampoons both sides of the political pond.  Many of us may not know the actors representing the Brits in this battle of will, wit and, perhaps, military artillery.  But there are some familiar faces on the American side.

James Gandolfini, a three-time Emmy Award winner for his work as mob boss Tony Soprano on "The Sopranos," portrays Gen. Miller, a key link to the Pentagon.  Also, David Rasche ("Burn After Reading") stirs the comic pot with excellent timing as the State Department's Linton Barwick, who might just be heading a stealth war committee.

This is a film that's finely tuned by rollicking wordplay.  It's the kind of thing we don't see much anymore.  We used to when Bette Davis and Anne Baxter went at it in "All About Eve" (1951), just to cite one example.

Throw in the ticking political time bomb, a la "Wag the Dog" and "Dr. Strangelove," and you've got a verbally deadly British parlor farce that plays out on British and U.S. soil.

If you enjoy well staged political satire, you may never view the -- dare we say, "somewhat manipulated" -- 24-hour news cycle quite the same. 


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