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Heroes of the Zeroes: In the Loop

by on May 25, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“In the Loop”
Rated R
2009

Not since “Three Kings” has war satire felt as gloriously agitated and acerbic as in 2009’s “In the Loop.” Brimming with the British-born briskness of “The Office,” Armando Ianucci’s film doled out diabolical wit and depressing truths about corrosive careerism and boomeranging policies.

Though opposed to a war sought by U.S. and U.K. leaders, a doddering British diplomat (Tom Hollander) inadvertently endorses combat on the air. Duplicitous toadies on either side of the line — Yanks or Brits, hawks or doves — hurriedly attempt to spin his remarks to hinder or hurry the process.

James Gandolfini’s even-keeled military adviser butts heads with David Rasche’s oily policy wonk, as an American aide (“My Girl’s” Anna Chlumsky in an unexpected, but welcome, return) struggles to push an influential paper across the right desk.

Yet Peter Capaldi, as the British Prime Minister’s communications director, drops the most destructive daisy-cutters of bad behavior and lyrical, loudmouth profanity. A limey that only David Mamet could love, Capaldi elevates cursing to an art form, a maestro converting it into a melodious instrument of rage, sarcasm and disbelief.

But “Loop” is savvy and substantive enough to trap even this walking compendium of withering insults in a moment when putdowns fail him. Everyone here suffers delusions of power and influence — none willing to lie on the chopping block, all bound to be someone else’s whipping boy.

Perfectly calibrated at the classic level of “Dr. Strangelove,” “In the Loop” fired its most serious killshots after its annihilative rat-a-tat gags were all spent.

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