Here is yet another promising review of ITL!Interview: Armando Iannucci - All guns blazing
Published Date: 11 February 2009
By Alistair Harkness
The backroom politicking, stab-you-in-the-chest double-crossing, and ruthless spin-doctoring involved in the British-American "special relationship" gets a savage and hilariously profane work-out courtesy of tomorrow night's Glasgow Film Festival opening night premiere of In the Loop.
The debut feature – not that you'd know it – from Armando Iannucci, the film sees the satirical comedy veteran building on and expanding his brilliant BBC 4 show The Thick of It, turning it into an even more quick-witted and scarily insightful look at the Orwellian nature of modern government and diplomacy.
The film is set against the run-up to a proposed war in an unnamed Middle Eastern country – a course of action that will require delicate handling of the facts and careful massaging of the evidence to make the case for troop deployment. There are obviously no prizes for guessing where Iannucci got his inspiration, but the film doesn't go for easy laughs by name-checking past or present administrations on either side.
Instead he chooses to mock and massacre from behind a very thin veil of fiction. Or, as one of his invective vomiting characters might put it: he attacks his targets with kid gloves – kid gloves made from real kids.
It's a cruel and bloody world. Ministers, senators, strategists, underlings, policy wonks, the military, PR officers, journalists, even the film's co-funders the BBC, don't escape Iannucci's merciless and mirthful portrait of politics as a scarily absurd rats nest full of complex, interconnected chambers through which civil servants and public figures scurry as they try to advance their own agendas and careers.
Just about every one here is tainted to various degrees by the overwhelming stench of compromised ideals, compromised ethics and outright corruption and dishonesty. Indeed, if it the film wasn't so funny you'd probably cry.
But it is funny, and not in that polite, Radio 4 kind of chuckle-along-to-prove-how-clever-you-are sort of way. Iannucci, along with co-writers Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche, have crafted a furiously funny script that his cast gleefully set about devouring. Fans of The Thick of It will be pleased to know that chief among this cast is Peter Capaldi, who reprises his role as permanently apoplectic and venomous Downing Street director of communications, Malcolm Tucker.
Assigned to keep a tight reign on the release of information regarding the encroaching military conflict, Malcolm's primary focus for damage limitation this time out is Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), an up-and-coming minister in the government wasteland known as the Office for International Development. He has unwittingly stumbled into Malcolm's line of fire by deviating from the official line and describing war as "unforeseeable" during a morning radio interview.
If that wasn't bad enough, in an effort to dig himself out of this hole, he tries to retract his statement by willingly walking into media ambush on the street and improvising a statement about how the country needs to be "ready to climb the mountain of conflict". The rapidity with which these seemingly minor gaffes are seized upon and blown out of proportion is emphasised by the way Foster is suddenly thrust into the transatlantic debate about war, with the pro and anti-war factions of Washington keen to shore up international support by using a seemingly credible British minister as a "meat puppet" in their own theatre of cloak-and-dagger diplomacy.
Here the film demonstrates just as sure a hand in its portrayal of the backroom wrangling of Washington as it does when it is focussed on Westminster. James Gandolfini plays brilliantly against type as General Miller, a war-weary decorated Pentagon official who has aligned himself with the Doves.
He gets a blinder of a scene with Capaldi that sees the pair trading verbal blows that deepen our understanding of Malcolm in surprising and complex ways, and also brings to the surface some of Malcolm's deep-rooted sense of national Scottish pride (or at least a disdain for being considered English).
There's also a great scene where Miller sneaks off into a child's bedroom at a party to secretly discuss the realities of war with the US Assistant Secretary of Diplomacy, Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy).
Using a child's talking calculator to work out the number of soldiers that will be killed, it's both surreal and scary. Together this pair want to stop war-mongering Secretary of State, Linton Barwick (David Rasche), who has already had Simon's "mountain of conflict" line made into bumper stickers.
Various assistants, both British and American, further complicate proceedings, with Chris Addison also stepping up from The Thick of It to take a prominent position in the narrative as the callow but ambitious aide, Oliver Reeder.
There's a welcome reprise too for Jamie (Paul Higgins), Malcolm's personal Scottish attack dog from the show's brief second season. Described here as "grumpiest man in Scotland", he's the only person able to swear more ferociously than his boss.
Despite such nods to the show, however, this never feels like a cash-in or a spin-off. British cinema is littered with the corpses of dire TV transfers, but this isn't one of them. Iannucci has evolved it in a way that makes it look cinematic, without losing any of its hand-held intimacy or edginess.
He's also ensured that no prior knowledge is required. He may immediately drop us into a dizzyingly complex world, but it doesn't take long to get your bearings. True to its title, Iannucci keeps us in the loop.
• In The Loop screens at Glasgow Film Theatre, tomorrow, 7:15pm, 8:15pm, and Cineworld, Renfrew Street, Glasgow, on Friday, 6pm. Tel: 0141-332 6535 or visit www.glasgowfilmfestival.comBackground
IN A RECENT newspaper column, Armando Iannucci movingly described what must surely be the highlight of his career to date: standing at the back of a packed cinema at last month's Sundance Film Festival, listening to 1,200 people laugh uproariously along to his new corridors-of-power satire, In The Loop.
Following the film's 22 January premiere, the Scots-Italian comedian and writer was excitedly informed by an industry insider that he had become "a hot potato" in the US. The reviews were glowing, some of them five-star, and the film was quickly snapped up by a major American distributor. Iannucci even found himself being compared to the great Some Like It Hot director Billy Wilder.
You can tell from reading Iannucci's account of his Sundance experience, however, that these things are all of secondary importance. This is a man who really means it when he says that, since the 1970s, "making a roomful of people laugh out loud has been my biggest dream".
Armando Iannucci was born in Glasgow in 1964 to an Italian father and a Scottish mother. In the early 1990s he abandoned graduate studies in English at Oxford to take up a career in broadcasting, and since then he has played an important (although often unsung) role in bringing comedy to the screen.
He began his career as a radio producer, working on The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Quote... Unquote, The News Quiz and On The Hour. This spoof news show later transferred to TV as The Day Today and spawned Alan Partridge (left), whose award-winning TV and radio shows Iannucci produced and co-wrote.
Iannucci has also fronted his own satirical programmes, including The Saturday (or Friday) Night Armistice on BBC2, his self-titled show on Channel 4 and his Radio 4 show, Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive.
He has also been a regular on Radio 4 panel shows such as The News Quiz and has indulged his passion for classical music by working on a number of programmes for Radio 3.
More recently, he created the political satire The Thick Of It for BBC Four, about a government minister trying to cope with pressure imposed by his spin doctor, and the spoof documentary series, Time Trumpet.news.scotsman.com/entertainment/Interview-Armando-Iannucci--All.4966718.jp