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In the Loop

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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 byArmando Iannucci
Screenplay byJesse Armstrong
Simon Blackwell
Armando Iannucci
Tony Roche
Based onThe Thick of It
by Armando Iannucci
Produced byKevin Loader
Adam Tandy
StarringPeter Capaldi
Tom Hollander
Gina McKee
James Gandolfini
Chris Addison
CinematographyJamie Cairney
Edited byBilly Sneddon
Ant Boys
Music byAdem Ilhan
BBC Films
UK Film Council
Aramid Entertainment
Distributed byOptimum Releasing[1]
Release dates
  • 22 January 2009 (2009-01-22) (Sundance)
  • 17 April 2009 (2009-04-17) (United Kingdom)
Running time
105 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Box office$7.8 million[1]

In the Loop is a 2009 British satirical black comedy film directed by Armando Iannucci. It is a spin-off from Iannucci's BBC Television series The Thick of It (2005–12), and satirises British-American politics, in particular the invasion of Iraq.[2] At the 82nd Academy Awards the film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.


At a time when the United Kingdom and the United States are contemplating military intervention in the Middle East, the UK Minister for International Development, Simon Foster, unintentionally states during an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme that war in the region is "unforeseeable", so the Prime Minister's Director of Communications, Malcolm Tucker, castigates Simon and warns him to toe the line. Toby Wright, Simon's new special advisor, is dating Suzy, who works in the Foreign Office, and he takes the credit when she gets Simon into that day's Foreign Office meeting. The US Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomacy, Karen Clark, opposes military intervention, and, at the meeting, she flags a report—titled Post-War Planning: Parameters, Implications, and Possibilities (PWPPIP)—by her aide Liza Weld about the pros and cons of intervention, which features many more cons than pros and contains caveats for most of the pros. Ambushed by reporters afterward, Simon rambles that the government must be prepared to "climb the mountain of conflict", and is again chastised by Malcolm, though the Prime Minister decides to send Simon to America to gather information about problems that might arise for the UK if there is a war.

Back in Washington, D.C., Karen and Liza deduce that the hawkish US Assistant Secretary of State for Policy, Linton Barwick, named his secret "war committee", which was accidentally referenced during the Foreign Office meeting, the Future Planning Committee. Karen teams up with Lieutenant General George Miller, who opposes the war because he believes the US has an insufficient number of troops available, and invites Simon to the upcoming meeting of the Future Planning Committee to "internationalise the dissent". Toby thoughtlessly leaks the existence of the committee to a friend at CNN, and then meets up with Liza, who he knows from college, at a bar, and they end up sleeping together.

Due to Toby's leak, the Future Planning Committee meeting is swamped. Both Karen and Linton turn to Simon to back their respective causes, but he struggles to say anything meaningful in support of either. Malcolm, who has also come to the US, confronts Linton about sending him to a diversionary briefing at the White House, and Linton asks him to supply the US with British intelligence that will support military intervention.

Back in Simon's Northampton constituency, a resident named Paul Michaelson urges him to do something about his constituency office wall, which is in danger of collapsing into Paul's mother's garden. When Paul feels ignored, he contacts the media, and there is growing criticism over Simon's inaction. Suzy finds out about Toby's one-night-stand with Liza and breaks up with him, and, as he is moving his things out of their apartment, he leaves her a copy of PWPPIP and asks her to leak it, but she chastises him for not doing it himself.

The day of the Security Council vote on military intervention arrives, and everyone converges on the UN. Simon tells his Director of Communications, Judy Molloy, to hint that he will resign if the Security Council passes the resolution. Malcolm hears PWPPIP has been leaked, so he convinces the British Ambassador to the UN, Sir Jonathan Tutt, to move the vote forward so it takes place before the contents of the report can be reported on the news. Linton tells Malcolm the vote cannot happen until he delivers the British intelligence, however, so Malcolm makes Tutt delay the vote, and then, aided by Jamie McDonald, a senior press officer, fabricates some intelligence by forcing the reluctant Director of Diplomacy at the Foreign Office, Michael Rodgers, to modify PWPPIP and delete all of the arguments against a war.

The Security Council approves intervention in the Middle East. George informs Karen that, as a soldier, he cannot go through with their plan to resign together in protest now that the country is at war, and Simon's intention to make a statement by resigning is thwarted when Malcolm fires him over the collapsing wall. A new Minister for International Development is appointed, with her own special advisor, and Simon is left to deal with his constituents in Northampton.


Most of the British actors in the film had appeared, or would appear, in Iannucci's television series The Thick of It (2005–12), but the only actors with substantial roles in the film who portrayed the same character on the show are Capaldi and Higgins; Raikes, who played reporter Angela Heaney on the show, makes a brief appearance in the film as a reporter, and Harrington has a small role in the film as Malcolm's secretary, Sam Cassidy, which she reprised in six later episodes of the series.[3] Actors who appeared in both multiple episodes of the show and in the film, but as different characters, include Addison, James Smith, Scanlan, Poulet, Will Smith, Macqueen, and Matheson;[4][5] Hollander played a different character in one later episode of the series. Chlumsky and Woods went on to portray characters similar to the ones they played in the film in Iannucci's American television series Veep (2012–19).


As explained by Jesse Armstrong, the writing of In The Loop used the same process the team of writers had developed when working on The Thick of It:

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.[6]

Noting that The Thick of It had been inspired by the Blair government's attacks on the BBC after the start of the Iraq War, the magazine Cinema Scope described In The Loop as a "retelling of the chain of events that inspired Iannucci to devise the series."[7]

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!"[8]

Elsewhere, Iannucci 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."[9]


In the Loop was a collaboration between BBC Films and the UK Film Council. Filming took place from May to December 2008, between the two The Thick of It specials that aired in 2007 and the third series of the show, which aired in the autumn of 2009, after the release of In the Loop.[10] The film was shot on location in London, Washington, D.C., and New York. Time Out London noted that the filmmaking style they observed during a set visit was very similar to that employed when filming 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.[5]

Iannucci mentioned his progress on the film in several columns written for The Observer. In one, he wrote:

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.[11]

In a May 2009 article in The Telegraph, Iannucci claimed that, while doing research for the film, he was able to enter the US State Department headquarters by showing his BBC press pass and claiming to be "here for the 12.30", and then spent an hour taking photographs that were used for the film's set designs.[12] The American political journalist and blogger Spencer Ackerman was one of the film's political consultants.[13]

The scene in the film in which Toby and Liza attend a concert was filmed at the Black Cat, a real nightclub in D.C., and the band that performs is Cannabis Corpse.[14]


The world premiere of the film took place at the Sundance Film Festival on 22 January 2009.[15][16] The film's European gala premiere screening took place at the independent Glasgow Film Theatre as the opening film of the Glasgow Film Festival on 12 February, and was attended by Iannucci and members of the cast.

The film was released in theatres in the United Kingdom on 17 April 2009.[17] It was picked up by IFC Films for distribution in the US,[18] where it began its theatrical release on 24 July 2009.[19]


Reception to the film's premiere at the Sundance Film Festival was very positive,[2] and In the Loop was released to critical acclaim. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 94% based on reviews from 179 critics, with an average score of 7.8/10; the site summarizes: "In the Loop is an uncommonly funny political satire that blends Dr. Strangelove with Spinal Tap for the Iraq war era."[20] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 83 out of 100 based on 31 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[21]

Damon Wise of The Times gave the film five stars out of five and stated: "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."[22] David D'Arcy of Screen International was complimentary, but noted that the release of the film may have been poorly timed, given the new presidency of Barack Obama, and said that "its exuberant, boundless cynicism will test the demand for political satire in an Obama-infatuated America."[23] Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune placed the film #7 on his list of the ten best films of 2009.[24]

At the 82nd Academy Awards, In the Loop was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "In the Loop". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
  2. ^ a b Brooks, Xan (21 January 2009). "Iannucci's Iraq war satire lauded at Sundance". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  3. ^ Richardson, Jay (7 November 2008). "Paul Higgins interview: Guilt-edged success". The Scotsman. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  4. ^ Kay, Jeremy (23 January 2009). "Sundance 2009: In the Loop puts rest of the fest in the shade". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  5. ^ a b Calhoun, Dave. "Set visit: 'In The Loop' with Armando Iannucci". Time Out. Archived from the original on 9 January 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2009.
  6. ^ Hopkins, Ben (27 October 2009). "The Writing of 'In The Loop'". Clash. Retrieved 5 April 2023.
  7. ^ Miller, Henry K. (12 September 2009). "The Road to In the Loop: British Satire-Sitcom-Cinema". Cinema Scope. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  8. ^ "That's me and him from The Sopranos". The Guardian. 22 March 2009. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  9. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (11 January 2009). "Star of British TV satire set to conquer America". The Observer. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  10. ^ "Peter Capaldi gets into The Thick Of it for Armando Iannucci movie". The Times. 6 May 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  11. ^ Iannucci, Armando (15 June 2008). "Step right up to Politicsville, USA". The Observer. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  12. ^ "Comedian sneaks into US State department". telegraph.co.uk. London. 8 May 2009. Archived from the original on 11 May 2009. Retrieved 8 May 2009.
  13. ^ Ackerman, Spencer (23 July 2009). "How to succeed in Hollywood without really trying". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  14. ^ "Interview with Cannabis Corpse". Metal Underground. 27 October 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  15. ^ "Armando's Loop gets Sundance premiere". Chortle.co.uk. 15 December 2008. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  16. ^ "In the Loop". Sundance Film Festival. 16 January 2009. Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  17. ^ "In The Loop". intheloopmovie.co.uk. Archived from the original on 12 March 2010. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  18. ^ Zeitch, Steven; Hernandez, Jay A. (23 January 2009). "IFC Films swoops in on 'Loop'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 5 April 2023.
  19. ^ "In the Loop (US release)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 5 April 2023.
  20. ^ "In the Loop (2009)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  21. ^ "In the Loop". Metacritic.
  22. ^ Wise, Damon (21 January 2009). "In the Loop at the Sundance Film Festival". The Times. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  23. ^ D'Arcy, David (20 January 2009). "In The Loop". ScreenDaily.com. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  24. ^ Phillips, Michael (17 December 2009). "The best and worst movies of 2009". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 25 October 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2023.
  25. ^ "82nd Academy Award Nominations". oscars.org. Archived from the original on 11 April 2010. Retrieved 26 February 2010.

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