While Sacha Baron Cohen may currently be a global poster child for British comedy, In The Loop sees one of comedy’s unsung heroes trumping him and delivering one of the sharpest, funniest British films of recent years.

Armando Iannucci’s name has been on the credits for some of the most influential TV comedies, from The Day Today to Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, via the Thick Of It, becoming a byword (or byname?) for top quality sophisti-chuckles.

Spinning off from the hit political satire The Thick of It, In The Loop sees the series making the leap to the big screen, though with greater panache than Holiday On The Buses.

Feckless MP Simon Foster accidentally launches a shitstorm in Anglo-American relations when he deviates from the party line and makes an off-hand remark about the likelihood of there being a war, incurring the considerable and spectacular wrath of spin doctor and attack dog Malcolm Tucker.

After Foster’s bumbling attempts to back out of the controversy only make matters worse, he’s packed off to Washington out of harm’s way, where his US counterparts all seek to use him the their pro- and anti-war campaigns. All the while Tucker seeks to manage the situation, mainly by way of colourful threats of brutality.

In many ways, In The Loop feels like a perfect distillation of the best of modern comedy. Blisteringly satirical at its core, it benefits from the low-key observational characterisation and pacing of The Office, plus the loose improv vibe of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Throw in some scriptwriters from Peep Show and you have a solid 105 minutes that you’d be hard-pushed to find fault with.

What’s most impressive is how impressively packed it is – one-liners flow from the off, sending the screen into meltdown whenever the spectacularly and creatively offensive Tucker looms into view. This neatly plotted beauty rarely flags for pace as a result, and one of the real joys of it is the feeling that you’ve just dropped into a permanently ongoing situation, a world where these people will continue to be hilarious away from the camera’s gaze.

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As much attention is given to the foibles of the minor characters, who also get to dip their fingers in the on-liner pot – especially Steve Coogan’s swell turn as a grumpy constituent.

Savvy, cool, funny, hugely likable and utterly memorable, In The Loop is must-viewing for anybody with even the vaguest passing interest in Britcoms.

Rating: 15
Starring: James Gandolfini, Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Steve Coogan
Directed by: Armando Iannucci
Extras: Commentary, deleted scenes, webisodes, interviews, trailers

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