In the Loop (film)

In the Loop

Official UK poster, showing some of the main cast (left to right: James Gandolfini, Anna Chlumsky, Tom Hollander, Peter Capaldi and Steve Coogan).

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Armando Iannucci
Produced by Adam Tandy
Kevin Loader
Written by Jesse Armstrong
Simon Blackwell
Armando Iannucci
Tony Roche
Starring Peter Capaldi
Tom Hollander
Gina McKee
James Gandolfini
Chris Addison
David Rasche
Music by Adem Ilhan
Cinematography Jamie Cairney
Edited by Billy Sneddon
Ant Boys
BBC Films
UK Film Council
Aramid Entertainment
Distributed by IFC Films
Release dates
  • 22 January 2009 (2009-01-22) (Sundance)
  • 17 April 2009 (2009-04-17) (United Kingdom)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget £612,650
Box office £4,870,963[1]

In the Loop is a 2009 British satirical black comedy directed by Armando Iannucci as a spin-off from the BBC Television series The Thick of It. The film satirizes Anglo-American politics in the 21st century and the Invasion of Iraq.[2] It was nominated for the 2009 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Both the UK and the US are on the verge of launching a war in the Middle East.[3] The plot follows government officials and advisors in their out of public view efforts either to promote the war or to prevent it. The film stars Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Gina McKee, Chris Addison, David Rasche, and James Gandolfini.


Both the UK and the US are hinting at a military intervention in the Middle East. During a radio interview on BBC Radio 4's PM programme, Minister for International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) unintentionally states that a war in the Middle East is "unforeseeable". The Prime Minister's Director of Communications, Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) scolds Simon and tells him to toe the line of intervention.

Joining the department on his first day, Simon's new aide Toby Wright (Chris Addison) manages to get him into the Foreign Office meeting that day with the help of his girlfriend Suzy (Olivia Poulet), who works there. Leading the meeting is the US Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomacy Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy), who is against military intervention and flags a report by her assistant Liza Weld (Anna Chlumsky) titled "Post-War Planning, Parameters, Implications and Possibilities" (PWPPIP). The report heavily opposes intervention, noting the lack of intelligence except that which is coming from an unsubstantiated source known as "Iceman". Also during the committee it is hinted at that the US Assistant Secretary of State for Policy, Linton Barwick (David Rasche), may have set up a secret war committee. After the meeting, Simon is ambushed by reporters and contradicts his previous statements by saying the government has to be prepared to "climb the mountain of conflict." Malcolm again scolds him for making too many waves.

Returning to the US, Karen and Liza figure out that Linton has created a war committee under the guise of Future Planning. At a party Karen teams up with General George Miller (James Gandolfini), who opposes the war as the US hasn't enough troops to succeed. She tells him that they could use Simon on the committee as he would "internationalise the dissent". While on a fact-finding mission in Washington, Simon and Toby are invited by Karen to the Future Planning committee. Toby accidentally leaks the details of the meeting to a friend at CNN before meeting up with Liza at a bar; they end up sleeping together. Due to Toby's leak the Future Planning committee is swamped, but Karen and George fail to find out anything about the war. Both Karen and Linton turn to Simon to back their respective causes, but he struggles to say anything meaningful and ultimately does not take a side. In the meantime, Malcolm, also in the US, is diverted by Linton to the White House for a fake briefing. He confronts Linton, who tells him that he has to supply the US with the British intelligence on the situation in the Middle East, with which Linton will influence the vote on intervention.

Back in the UK, Simon attends a surgery in his constituency of Northampton, where he is harassed by one constituent, Paul Michaelson (Steve Coogan), about a wall of Simon's constituency office, which is on the verge of collapsing into his mother's garden. News of this reaches the papers, who criticise Simon for not acting on the issue. Suzy finds out about Toby's one-night-stand with Liza and they break up. When leaving their apartment he gives her a copy of PWPPIP to leak if she chooses, but she calls him a coward for not doing it himself.

The President rushes forward the security council vote on military intervention by vetoing tariffs on Chinese imports. Despite being invited along by the Prime Minister, Simon tells his Director of Communications Judy Molloy (Gina McKee) to send out hints that he'll resign if the committee votes in favour. The press runs with the story, and Simon quickly begins to resent it. Once at the UN Headquarters Malcolm gets word that PWPPIP has been leaked, making a yes vote unlikely. It is later revealed that Michael Rodgers (James Smith) of the Foreign Office accidentally leaked it, not realising its importance. George and Karen praise Simon for his resignation, which they plan to do themselves in protest; Simon unsuccessfully attempts to suggest he is only pretending to resign. Malcolm convinces the UK Ambassador Jonathan Tutt (Alex MacQueen) to push the meeting forward so the leak won't have time to spread in the US. However, Linton asserts his dominance over Malcolm by telling him that the British intelligence has to be handed over before a vote can be taken. Unable to make Jonathan reverse his changes and delay the meeting, Malcolm, with the help of Senior Press Officer Jamie McDonald (Paul Higgins), fabricates the details of PWPPIP by forcing Michael to remove all the arguments against intervention and presenting it as the intelligence. Subsequently the committee votes in favour of intervention.

After the vote, George informs Karen that he isn't going to resign now that the war is happening, infuriating her. Simon realises his resignation from the Cabinet is inevitable, but before he gets the chance to do so Malcolmapparently on the behalf of the Prime Ministerfires him over his failure to prevent the collapse of Paul's wall, which he managed to make a headline on BBC News. He also tells Simon that he cannot take any sort of stand on the war anymore, as he has contradicted himself too many times. Simon is reduced to mundane constituency business. A new Minister for International Development arrives at the office.


Several actors from The Thick of It appear in the film, including Peter Capaldi, Chris Addison, Paul Higgins, James Smith, Alex MacQueen, Olivia Poulet, and Joanna Scanlan, and also, in very small roles, Samantha Harrington, Eve Matheson, and Will Smith.[4][5] The only characters from the show, however, are Malcolm Tucker (Capaldi) and Jamie McDonald (Higgins), with brief appearances by Tucker's secretary Sam Cassidy (Harrington) and journalist Angela Heaney (Lucinda Raikes).[6] The other Thick of It actors who appear play new characters, albeit very similar to the ones they portrayed in the series. Likewise, Anna Chlumsky went on to portray a similar but nominally different character in the subsequent American series, Veep.

The new actors in the mix include Tom Hollander (who went on to appear in one episode of The Thick of It), Gina McKee, and a roster of seven American actors including James Gandolfini, Mimi Kennedy, and David Rasche. Previous Iannucci collaborator Steve Coogan also appears.


The writing of In The Loop followed the methods developed during The Thick of It television series. Co-writer Jesse Armstrong explained:[7]

It's exactly the same format as used in The Thick of It. Armando holds it together in the middle. Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche and I meet him then come up with the story line. Us three go away and do the storyline then send it to Armando to be okayed and do the initial drafts. Then Ian Martin does additional material and rewrites as well. So it's a five-man team but all broken down into different compartments. It never feels unwieldy.

Once we had the storyline mapped out with Armando, each of us took an act each, if you think of it as a three-act movie. I had the first crack at the first act, Simon at the second and Tony at the third. We looked at them all, Armando gave us notes and we did another rewrite and passed them around. It's not like one person does the plot, one does the jokes and one does the politics, but we all have our different strengths.

Noting that The Thick of It had been inspired by the Blair government's attacks on the BBC in the wake of the Iraq war, the magazine Cinema Scope described In The Loop as "The Thick of It's "origin story," a retelling of the chain of events that inspired Iannucci to devise the series."[8]

In an article for The Guardian, Iannucci wrote:

At least two people told me that Condoleezza Rice was a bit rubbish. She got rather star-struck in Washington and never really stood up to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Both of the [Pentagon and CIA] guys I met said: "And, as a result, people got killed." The CIA guy added: "And that's what really pisses me off!"[9]

Iannucci has stated: "We don't go up to White House level, we deal mainly with state department underlings, the kind of people that actually make decisions with enormous political consequences."[10]

Filming and release

In the Loop was a collaboration between BBC Films and the UK Film Council. Filming took place between May 2008 and December 2008, during a lengthy hiatus between The Thick of It's second season (which aired in the autumn of 2005) and its third (which aired in the autumn of 2009, after the release of In the Loop).[11]

The film was shot on location in London and Washington, D.C. During a set visit, Time Out London noted the style of filming is highly similar to The Thick of It:

The similarities are everywhere, down to the docu-style, handheld camerawork evident on the monitors (it's the same director of photography) and the anti-West Wing production design that eliminates all notions of political glamour.

Iannucci himself mentioned progress on the film in several columns for The Observer newspaper.[12]

In the film I was finishing, we featured a motorcade. We had some police standing by to add authenticity. We started rolling, but could never get up a decent speed because of the traffic lights at each block. Then one of the police leant into the car and said: "D'you want me to turn my siren on? That'll let us through all the red lights." It worked and it was also quite exciting.

One scene was filmed at the DC nightclub Black Cat; the band performing is Cannabis Corpse.[13] The American political journalist and blogger Spencer Ackerman was one of the film's consultants.[14]

The world premiere was held at the Sundance Film Festival on 22 January 2009.[15][16] The European gala premiere screening was held in the independent Glasgow Film Theatre as the opening of the 2009 Glasgow Film Festival on 12 February 2009, attended by Iannucci and members of the cast.[17] The film was released on 17 April 2009 in the United Kingdom.[18] The film was picked up by IFC Films for distribution in the US, and began screening on 24 July 2009.[19] Later in the year, The Thick of It returned to the BBC for a belated third season.


The film was released to critical acclaim. Reception to the film's premiere at the Sundance Film Festival was particularly positive.[2] Damon Wise, writing in The Times was particularly complimentary, giving the film five stars, stating "It's hard to settle on a standout element because it's all so outstanding, from the performances to the one-liners to the plot."[20] Screen International's David D'Arcy was complimentary, but noted that the release of the film may be poorly timed, given the new presidency of Barack Obama, stating "its exuberant, boundless cynicism will test the demand for political satire in an Obama-infatuated America."[21] Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune put the film as #9 on his top ten list of 2009.

The film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 94% of the reviews they tallied for the film were positive, based on 166 reviews.[22]

In The Loop was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2010.[23]


  1. Box Office Mojo Retrieved 2011-01-10.
  2. 1 2 Xan Brooks, Iannucci's Iraq war satire lauded at Sundance in The Guardian, 21 January 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  3. Wolf, Ian. "In the Loop". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
  4. Jeremy Kay (2009-01-23). "Sundance 2009: In the Loop puts rest of the fest in the shade". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  5. Dave Calhoun. "Set visit: 'In The Loop' with Armando Iannucci". Time Out. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
  6. Pul Higgins interview: Guilt-edged success by Jay Richardson, 8 November 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  7. "Writing In the Loop" 27 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  8. Cinema Scope » Features | The Road to In the Loop: British Satire-Sitcom-Cinema. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  9. "" The Guardian 22 March 2009. Retrieved 2013-06-21.
  10. Vanessa Thorpe, "Star of British TV satire set to conquer America", The Observer, Sunday 11 January 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  11. Peter Capaldi gets into The Thick Of it for Armando Iannucci movie in The Times, 6 May 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  12. Armando Iannucci, Step right up to Politicsville, USA, The Observer, Sunday 15 June 2008. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  13. Interview with Cannabis Corpse Metal Underground 27 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  14. How to succeed in Hollywood without really trying by Spencer Ackerman, 23 July 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  15. Armando's Loop gets Sundance premiere, on Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  16. In the Loop at the Sundance Film Festival website, 16 January 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  18. In The Loop Blog:Home, . Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  19. In the Loop at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  20. Damon Wise, In the Loop at the Sundance Film Festival, Utah, The Times, 21 January 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  21. David D'Arcy, In The Loop,, 20 January 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-26.
  22. In the Loop, Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-11-11.
  23. 82nd Academy Award Nominations, Official website. Retrieved 2010-02-26.

External links

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