2009 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

Armando Iannucci's sublimely vicious political satire demonstrates that it's perfectly feasible for a top-notch TV comedy - The Thick of It - to make the trip to the big screen. Tom Hollander plays the bumbling British government minister whose off-the-cuff comments are seized on by Washington hawks as proof that war is coming. A stunning British-American cast includes James Gandolfini's dove-ish US army general and Chris Addison's naive aide. However, it's Peter Capaldi's Machiavellian master of spin Malcolm Tucker that elevates this from mere spoof to weapons grade satire.

Director

  • Armando Iannucci

Cast

  • Tom Hollander

  • Peter Capaldi

  • James Gandolfini

  • Chris Addison

  • Gina McKee

Review

Lies, half-truths, manipulation, deceit, craven knavery and political double dealing have pretty much put America and Britain's war against Iraq beyond parody.

However, director Armando Iannucci has a long reach.

Previous attempts to satirise the Bush administration (Oliver Stone's W) or Tony Blair's shifty fiefdom (The Queen) pale into insignificance when set against Iannucci's superlative shafting of the unhinged diplomacy leading to the war on terror /race for oil.

Basically internationalising TV's peerless The Thick Of It, he paints an all-too-likely scenario where a cowed, insecure British minister (Hollander) inadvertently suggests war is "unforseeable".

After a potty-mouthed monstering from Capaldi's spin-meister Malcolm Tucker, a velociraptor-in-a-suit spitting minutely focussed venom, Hollander subsequently blurts out the phrase "climbing the mountain of conflict."

Within seconds the comment is being weighed up across the pond in the corridors of Capitol Hill, where there's a ruck in the pecking order between the doves (Mimi Kennedy's US diplomat and James Gandolfini's army commander) and David Rache's Donald Rumsfeld-style neocon Linton Barwick.

The hapless Hollander is sent to Washington to mount damage limitation along with his naive aide Toby Wright (Addison) and closely followed by Tucker, who's been told to toe the Barwick line.

Few comedies - least of all political parodies - can hope to match the GPM (gags-per-minutes) success of this glorious sideswipe at international diplomacy.

Fewer still can hope to match the delirious intensity of the all-guns blazing Tucker firing armour-piercing insults at cowering targets ranging from the "nine-year-old boy" at the State Department to Gandolfini's quivering wreck of an outgunned army chief.

The style - a curiously successful hybrid of inspired improvisation and vice-like scriptwriting - is perfectly served by a cast, including Steve Coogan's disgruntled constituent, who play things subtly, quietly underlining the terrifying prospect of a foreign policy built on petty ambition.

You won't see anything funnier...or more scary.

Tim Evans