Fans of either the British or American version of The Office will appreciate the petty politics and preening endemic to the corridors of power at 10 Downing Street in London (the Prime Minister's address) and the State Department in Washington D.C. in Armando Iannucci's In The Loop. The viciously sharp-tongued and fast-clipped political comedy sends up the bumbling ways in which the big picture is cast aside as individuals scramble for even the slightest increase in power or prestige.
The new British minister for international development (Tom Hollander) inadvertently stirs up trouble when he unwittingly takes a position on rumored war plans the U.S. might be brewing in the Middle East. Diplomatic envoys are dispatched across the Atlantic, and during a chaotic meeting, a flimsy position paper written by a junior staffer gains traction — eventually sanctioned by the bureaucratic badge of distinction, an acronym. Also revealed is the existence of an obscure, secret war-planning committee, which is willed into greater importance by the slew of officials who suddenly want to be on it, if only to validate their own status. But almost no one knows the committee's actual name or meeting place, and one diplomat resorts to loitering at a restroom door, hoping to trail a likely participant to a session.
Cavalier staff assistants from both nations find themselves jockeying with top officials, including the extremely foul-mouthed and arrogant British director of communications (Peter Capaldi) and the growling American warhorse, Lt. Gen. George Miller (the imposing and funny James Gandolfini). The rush to war, which lampoons the American lead-up to the current war in Iraq, is played out in the extraneous gestures of moving up or delaying U.N. votes, information leaked to impress sexual conquests and the outright manipulation of suspect intelligence reports in order to drive the day's leading news story. Even the act of resigning in protest becomes a horribly cynical and meaningless stunt.
At one point, a young Brit reasons with his boss that doing the wrong thing takes true courage because doing the right thing is such a simple and predictable choice. In The Loop is as outrageous as it is outrageously funny for making success seem so filthy and loathsome and integrity seem so sterile and contemptible. — Will Coviello
In The Loop
2:30 p.m. Sat.-Sun., Sept. 12-13
Prytania Theatre, 5339 Prytania St., 891-2787; www.neworleansfilmfest.com