Turning tragedy into laughs

If it weren’t for the thousands of dead bodies piled in their wake, the lies that led us to war in 2003 would be downright comical.

If it weren’t for the thousands of dead bodies piled in their wake, the lies that led us to war in 2003 would be downright comical.

I mean, not a single one of the reasons given for the war turned out to be true. Not the weapons of mass destruction, not the terrorism, nothing. When you think about it, Operation Iraqi Freedom is sort of the tragic clown of American wars.

In the Loop
, the new film by British director Armando Iannucci, understands this golem-like absurdity and milks it for all the comedic juices it contains. It is a sharp stab of satire at the drumbeat of misinformation that heralded our national folly.

Shot in a style very reminiscent of the British version of The Office, the film follows the prewar jitters of British Minister for International Development Simon Foster, a gaffe-ridden man who alternates between accidental peacenik and unintended war hawk. Really, he’s just the sort who’s always out of sorts.

His staff isn’t much better. They’re either awkward careerists or confused simpletons. And as he and his entourage bumble their way through Washington, D.C., and the U.N. Security Council, Simon’s nerves unravel, showing off what everyone already knows—people in government aren’t always the bright shining stars we wish they would be. Sometimes they’re just plain dumb.

In the Loop paints the lies of war in brutal, true-to-life colors. These people aren’t necessarily greedy, they just don’t have the will to understand the repercussions of their actions. And what’s more, the movie makes the hubris of such actions hilarious and manic. (Much like the humor found in The Office.)

Each character in the ensemble cast fits a different archetype. My favorite, for his epic, Mamet-level use of the word “fuck,” is Malcolm Tucker, the press secretary for the British prime minister. He is cynical to a fault and dedicated only to getting the job done, however despicable the job may be. When he orchestrates a late-movie memo rewrite—making a report against the war instead for it—he does this as much for sport as for anything else.

Another entertaining character is Gen. Miller, played by The Sopranos James Gandolfini. He’s against the war, but pro-military. He struggles to find the ideological balance of his position while roaming the halls of the Pentagon.

I could go on. The characters come rich and fast, spewing profane dialogue at such a clip that you sort of forget the movie basically has no plot. But that sort of describes government bureaucracy as well. The fact that In the Loop makes subcommittee meetings seems both funny and highly entertaining is testament to the director’s quick-witted TV style.

Even more so, it takes a lot of proverbial balls to decide to make a comedy out of the greatest government foul-up of our time. That, despite the challenge, In the Loop is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen all year is a happy surprise.

I guess it’s true what they say—in the seeds of tragedy lies the birth of comedy.