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Blast from my past: "The Overly Qualified Critic: Esquire's National-Security Expert on the New Film 'In the Loop'" (2009)

 

The Overly Qualified Critic:  Esquire's National-Security Expert on the New Film In the Loop


by Thomas P.M. Barnett

Esquire, August 2009, p. 27.

In the Loop, by veteran British satirist and first-time director Armando Iannucci, is a deadpan farce that wickedly echoes the joint Anglo-American sales job on the Iraq invasion. Imagine dueling diplomatic versions of The Officecolliding at the United Nations over a proposed war resolution, with the decisive press leak sheepishly offered up by a two-timing British bureaucrat to his enraged Foreign Ministry girlfriend as evidence that his bedding an American counterpart was nothing more than an "antiwar shag."

The Brits are fronted by a peace-seeking but tongue-tied cabinet minister (Tom Hollander), who says things like "To walk the road of peace, sometimes we need to be ready to climb the mountain of conflict," triggering the prime minister's press flack (Peter Capaldi) to retort, "You sound like a fucking Nazi Julie Andrews." The warmongering Americans are captained by a Rummy-esque übercrat (David Rasche) who favors live hand grenades as desktop paperweights and pontificates to baby-faced aides, "In the land of truth... the man with one fact is the king."

The film, which slips in an effortless turn by James Gandolfini (above) as a foulmouthed U. S. general, contains enough fucks to qualify for the Tarantino award at Sundance, where it premiered in January, yet it's the script's many accurate details that earn this former badge-holder's praise, to include: the ubiquitous acronyms whose actual meaning nobody knows, the constant backstabbing among careerists, senior officials who float their resignations with less thought than they give their office decor, and the vigorously hedonistic lifestyle of D. C.'s young single staffers.

Which makes it a hilarious and helpful primer for anyone new to Washington.

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