If screenwriters gene-spliced Wag the Dog with The West Wing and set it in the context of Anglo-American relations, the result would be Armando Iannucci's In the Loop, a scabrously funny look at the cutthroat game of statecraft.

At stake is whether British doves will ally with American hawks to invade an unnamed Middle Eastern nation. So blinkered and careerist are most of the players that only two see the big picture.

The ones with a clear goal are that geyser of profanity Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi), a British press officer, and Linton Barwick (David Rasche), a iron-fisted State Department hawk. Everybody else is a pawn, with teeth.

When Simon Foster (Tom Hollander), a mid-level British cabinet member with a tendency to malaprop, says on air that he thinks war is "unforeseeable," it causes a diplomatic tsunami on both sides of the Atlantic. Within minutes, Tucker is zipping Foster's lips and American doves Karen Clarke (Mimi Kennedy) and a three-star general (James Galdolfini) enlist him in a war against the war.

Bouncing between London and Washington at a velocity typically seen only in Chinese table tennis, the film is fast, funny, and about as deep as a 10-pound note.


Contact Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl