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Film review: 'In the Loop' deserves to be seen

Peter Capaldi, left, stars as Malcolm with Chris Addison as Toby in the politically savvy, satirical movie "In the Loop."
Peter Capaldi, left, stars as Malcolm with Chris Addison as Toby in the politically savvy, satirical movie "In the Loop."
Nicola Dove

IN THE LOOP — ★★★ — Peter Capaldi, Chris Addison, James Gandolfini; not rated, probable R (profanity, vulgarity, violence, slurs, brief sex, brief drugs); Broadway Centre

"In the Loop" begins with a flurry of swear words and other language so profane and so off-color that it almost makes the raunchy comedies "Funny People" and "The Goods" look tame by comparison.

In fact, the language will probably send some audiences scurrying to the exits. It did so at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered, and that isn't an easy thing to do.

The funny thing is, this politically savvy, satirical piece deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. The way the film shows governmental "war rooms" as being beset by petty, personal conflicts is positively enlightening.

"In the Loop" is a big-screen spin-off from the acclaimed BBC series "The Thick of It," which looked at British politics.

This semi-fictional tale follows the staff members of Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), a British government secretary with a propensity for sticking his foot in his mouth at the worst possible moments.

He's been sent to Washington, D.C., to participate in a committee discussing imminent warfare in the Middle East.

Simon is being courted by both sides: hawkish state department official Linton Barwick (David Rasche) and his more dove-like counterparts, including a Pentagon general (James Gandolfini).

There's clearly a germ of truth to this supposedly fictional tale, especially in the way it attacks conflicting "intelligence" reports.

But it gets bogged down in the love life of Foster's new staffer, Toby Wright (Chris Addison).

Still, Peter Capaldi steals the film. As the British Prime Minister's spin doctor, he's a relentless, bulldog of a man. And when he dresses down everyone with his tirades, they're as amusing as they are profanity-laced.

"In the Loop" is not rated but would probably receive an R for strong sexual language (profanity and crude slang terms), other vulgar references, some violent content (newsreel footage, as well as a violent tantrum), derogatory language and slurs (some based on nationality and sexual orientation), a brief sex scene (mostly implied), and brief drug references (methamphetamines). Running time: 106 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com