In the Loop is a fast-paced, lancet-witted ensemble comedy from first-time film director Armando Iannucci, based on his satirical BBC sitcom The Thick of It. The film tracks the lies, misunderstandings, bad intel, and PR blunders within in a few corridors of British and American power that escalate into a full-blown (fictional) crisis in the Middle East over the course of a few days, during a few conversations and meetings. Though played for laughs, the movie demonstrates how the most incidental factors (leaked papers, hastily spoken sound bites) and players (aides, interns, and low-level government officials) can influence the course of history.
The pitch-perfect cast does a great job with Iannucci's script, improvising just enough to maintain the pseudo-documentary feel of the TV show. Even when the action gets loose and rollicking, the tone is tightly controlled satire, and the humor emerges organically from the situations and relationships at hand. Peter Capaldi, reprising his TV role, is hilarious as a foul-mouthed, perpetually riled up director of communications for the British prime minister. Mimi Kennedy gives a droll but heartfelt performance as a pacifist U.S. diplomat who shares some touching and funny scenes with a relatively subdued James Gandolfini, playing a U.S. general with surprising views on war. And Tom Hollander quietly steals the show as the hapless British secretary of state for International Development whose careless remark in an interview sets off the events that catapult him into deeper waters than he has ever tread.