Armando Iannucci’s brilliantly witty political satire is one of the most quotable comedies of all time—and all of those quotes will involve swear words wrapped around one another like linguistic pretzels. The film is set some time in 2003, in the immediate pre-Iraq-invasion era, when a gaffe from the British Secretary of State for International Development—saying that, in some sense, war is “inevitable”—ignites a spin campaign like none other, spear-headed by the curse-happy Communications Director Malcolm Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi. This involves a jaunt across the Atlantic to Capitol Hill and the UN headquarters in New York, where the minister’s newly-hired assistant, Toby, encounters his college friend Liza Weld (Anna Chlumsky, all grown up since My Girl), an assistant to the US Assistant Secretary of State. James Gandolfini, playing a senior Pentagon military goon, spars with Tucker at the UN, while back home in the Minister’s constituency of Northamptonshire, Steve Coogan’s mother’s back yard is in peril because of a collapsing wall.
A TV comedy writer and some-time radio host, Iannucci began his career in the late ’80s; In the Loop grew out of a very funny TV series he created called The Thick of It. Although his collaborations with Chris Morris—The Day Today, Brass Eye—are brilliant, it’s his 2001 eponymous solo series, an existential skit show, that remains his best work. Capaldi’s logorrheic foul-mouthed wordsmithery, which an ingenious YouTube commenter beautifully described as “the Weaponised English Language,” matches Peter Sellers’ physical slapstick every step of the way to truly make this a Dr. Strangelove for our times.