August 20, 2009

300 Words About: In the Loop

The charming face of international diplomacy...

Every time I go to Washington, D.C., I find myself increasingly noticing the ugliness of the place. Of course the city is not physically ugly (I love the National Mall), or culturally ugly (quite the opposite), but I'm picking up more and more on the undercurrent of a competitive, cutthroat, ugly attitude that exists in the federal government and the think tanks and the agencies inside the Beltway. It's all happening In the Loop, as it were, and based on anecdotes from my D.C.-based friends and the razor-sharp satire in this terrific comedy, I'm frankly glad that I'm operating outside of the loop.

Granted, half of In the Loop takes place in London, but things are no better over there, the only difference being the flavor of expletive used in any given conversation. Directed by British TV veteran Armando Ianucci, In the Loop shows us a side of international relations that's just too bizarre to be fake, because really, given the nasty dynamic of the health care debate at the moment, and the 25-hour news cycle, and the sheer size of the circuitous bureaucracy that is our federal government, there's every reason to believe hijinks like this take place with some frequency. After all, the government is comprised of us - "we the people" - and the ratio of good apples to bad apples is the same on Main Street as it is on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Calling Ianucci's directly style "breezy" would be an understatement. Tornadoes of dialogue whoosh through most scenes, and with the number of accents and the number of voices speaking at the same time (e.g., the elevator scene), you're likely to be scratching your head as much as you are laughing. But I like that, because it rewards paying attention and it means that you're laughing at a different joke than your neighbor, simply because they probably didn't catch the one you did. The few moments that don't feature dialogue are filled in by deadpan comedic acting, with so many scowls and smirks that it would appear it's a competition as to who can do the best impression of Dick Cheney/Karl Rove (the winner is David Rasche). Or in the case of the impossibly sarcastic Chad (Zach Woods), who can do the best impression of Kristen Wiig.

If there's one thing I didn't care for in this otherwise wickedly amusing film, it was the use of handheld cameras and quick zooming during completely static scenes (people sitting in cubicles), which at this point is so prevalent in every movie, commercial, and TV show, that I'm left wondering who will be the first director to just have their actors throw the camera back and forth to each other during scenes of casual conversation. Fortunately, there are no scenes of casual conversation in In the Loop, so for the most part the crazy camera work simply enhances the sense of chaos, or at the very least makes the film resemble a documentary. Which it isn't - I hope.


  1. Intresting thoughts on DC as an UGLY city - thanks for sharing your thoughts and review -- I'm glad you liked it.

  2. I hope it didn't make it seem TOO ugly.

  3. Great review here Daniel! The hand-held camera has been the scourge of a number of ilms this year, and some were taken dizzy with it's use in DISTRICT 9. But I agree with you that this corrosive and vulgar film is "wickedly funny" and actually one of the best comedies in years for my money. I'd go as far as to say it's one of the year's best films in fact. I appreciate your economical presentation here, as it highlights the film's essence and comedic value.

  4. Thanks, and you've made me realize, Sam, that there just haven't been a lot of comedies this year period, at least outside of the summer usuals - Land of the Lost, Year One, The Hangover, etc.

    Also, the hand-held camera never makes me sick, but it really annoys me when employed for movies like this, as compared to The Hurt Locker, where I thought it was appropriate (meaning I didn't notice it once). And I'm starting to notice it a LOT more in general (Lorna's Silence last night). I guess I should just be glad that it doesn't make me nauseous.

  5. In retrospect, I'm with you on the handheld camera business. It's a gimmick that might work ok on TV, but it's become tiresome. Not as annoying as say Tony Scott using a swooping crane to make someone talking on the phone seem more interesting, but still it's a tiresome cliche.

    Having said that, I loved The Loop. Depressing in a way for feeling so bitterly true, but funnier than any movie of the summer in my book.

  6. Haha, great example of Scott's finesse. Lots of swooping and helicopter shots, recently of Denzel Washington standing on bridges (Pelham, Deja Vu).

    And the handheld annoyance melted pretty quickly for me here; I didn't notice it nearly as much as the end as I did in the beginning. I think there's a new idea in Hollywood that you have to BE THERE to make every movie seem "real". Why? We were never "there" before, and that was fine. Sure, it adds to United 93 and Bourne and the gritty crime/action movies, but I'm still not getting its use in standard comedies and static settings. Doesn't seem to add anything at all for me in these movies.

  7. Yes there's a time and a place for it when you're looking to inject immediacy and tension, but it's overused.


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