This is the trouble with civilians wanting to go to war. Once you've been there, you never want to go again unless you absolutely have to. It's like France.
2009 film spin-off of Armando Iannucci's political sitcom The Thick of It.The film is set in a slightly different universe from the series, this time with the action unfolding across the United Kingdom and United States. It features most of the original cast, with most of them playing new (but strangely familiar) roles.Tom Hollander joins the cast as Simon Foster, the hapless Minister for International Development. Peter Capaldi returns as Malcolm Tucker, the Prime Minister's Director of Communications, who is called upon to stop Foster from giving any statements to the press... or to the Americans... or talking in general. Foster is also joined by his senior aide, Judy Molloy (Gina McKee), and millstone—er, junior aide Toby Wright (Chris Addison).When Foster makes two contradictory statements regarding a possible war in an unspecified Middle Eastern country, he finds himself summoned to a fact-finding mission in Washington, where he is used to push arguments both for and against the war. The Brits comes face-to-face with their US counterparts, including the hawkish Linton Barwick (David Rasche) and the dovish General Miller (James Gandolfini).As the movie is a spin-off set in almost the same universe as the series, the two share many tropes. Tropes that originated in the TV series may be better placed on the page for The Thick of It.
Toby is noticeably more self-righteous, smug and cowardly than Olly Reeder. He also treats his girlfriend like crap, something which cannot be said for Olly.
Similarly, Malcolm of In the Loop seemingly has absolutely no moral principles beyond his own job. Notably, unlike his TV counterpart, he never shows any empathy or sympathy for anyone. (What appears to be momentary lapses in this usually turnout to be manipulation.)
Anachronism Stew: There is no clear indication of the year on which the film takes place; the film circles around a possible western intervention in an unspecified country. As it parallels the real intervention in Iraq, it would put it in 2003; yet by a reference by Malcolm about YouTube (which was launched in 2005) and the noticeably widespread use of text messaging puts it in a considerably later date, which could be surmised as late 2000's, the time when the film itself was released.
Angrish: Malcolm's gift for baroque swearing briefly deserts him in the Meditation Room.
Alternative Continuity: To The Thick of It. The film stars several of the same actors, but while some of them are playing the same characters that they play in the series (albeit with slightly different characteristics in some cases), others are playing entirely new ones.
Ambiguously Gay: Lampshaded, with Malcolm and Jamie exchanging "lovey-dovey" pleasantries over the phone (coupled with the fact the film, and especially its deleted scenes, suggest Jamie is the closest thing Malcolm has to an actual friend), and General Miller calling Malcolm gay later on, to which Tucker doesn't seem to react.
"Within your purview? Where do you think you are, in some fucking regency costume drama? This is a government department, not a fucking Jane fucking Austen novel! Allow me to pop a jaunty little bonnet on your purview and ram it up the shitter with a lubricated horse cock!"
Armchair Military: General Miller currently, though he admits to having killed people 15 years ago so it presumably didn't always apply.
The Bad Guy Wins: It's pretty inevitable that the pro-war side is going to win eventually, because the film is based on the build-up to a war which actually happened in real life. As it turns out, though, the only characters who get what they want in the end are Linton (the Ax-Crazy warmonger), Jamie (the only person in the film more psychologically disturbed than Linton) and the even-more-aggressively-amoral-than-usual Malcolm Tucker.
Bad News in a Good Way: After Michael admits to leaking PWIP-PIP, Jamie later barges into his office to cheerfully inform him that he isn't fired, asking if that isn't a good thing. Michael notes that it sounds ominous. He's right too.
Bastard Understudy: Jamie. "My theory is Malcolm built him in a lab, from bits of old psychopaths."
Big Damn Movie: Played with. Malcolm and co. are up to their usual shenanigans (handling incompetent ministers and cleaning up PR disasters), but on a much larger stage than the show.
A subtle one. Judy guesses Toby's name as being Daniel or a variation, because new people apparently often have that name. Come the end of the film, Toby's replacement turns out to be called "Danny Dan".
Taken literally with the subplot involving a collapsing garden wall.
Britain Versus the UK: Not so much subverted as set straight by the Scottish Malcolm: "Don't ever call me fucking English again".
The Catch Phrase Catches On: In-universe. Simon's attempt to undo the damage from his first (anti-war) gaffe becomes a rallying cry for the pro-war forces: "sometimes a country has to be prepared to climb the mountain of conflict." Linton uses it to try and draw out Simon during the well-attended Future Planning Committee meeting; later we see Linton also has it printed and hung up on his wall.
While he's certainly no Large Ham, Peter Capaldi acts so hard his temple veins start throbbing:
"You know what you look like? A squeezed dick. You've got that little blue vein running up the side of your head..."
Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Linton Barwick is an extremely unsettling version. His casual disregard for reality (changing minutes and wholesale rewriting of intelligence reports) mirrors Malcolm's attitude toward spin and damage control, but without any of the irony. As Karen Clarke puts it, the voices in his head are "singing barbershop together". And apart from his Ice Cream Koans, there are his odd almost-but-not-quite non sequiturs.
Linton: "Glass offices, in my opinion, are for perverts." Bob: "I could request the glass be frosted." Linton: "Frosting is on cakes."
Cluster F-Bomb: "Hey buddy, enough of the curse words, alright?" No, it's not alright: practically every line uttered by Malcolm or Jamie is a Cluster F-Bomb. Malcolm's response to the gentleman who confronts him about this is no exception: "Kiss my sweaty balls, you fat fuck!"
Compensating for Something: Toby makes some sniggering comments of this nature about the Washington Monument. Malcolm bluntly shuts him up by caustically remarking that the only way Toby is ever likely to get anything remotely similar to commemorate his life is if he buys "a fucking Toblerone".
Covert Group with Mundane Front: The Future Planning Committee. In fact, Clarke tells Liza that Linton's hush-hush war committee will assuredly be named something as boring and meaningless as possible. Liza takes the whole list of State Dept. committees and narrows it down to two, and Clarke figures out which one just from their names.
"If you don't get me fuckin' Brian, I'm gonna come over there, I'm gonna lock you in a fuckin' flotation tank and fill it full of sewage until ya fuckin' drown!"
"I'm gonna fuckin' take your leg off, and I'll... fuckin'... the shin bone! I'm gonna take the shin bone, I'm gonna break it in two and I'm going to fucking stab you to fucking death with it..."
Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much everyone (except Jamie and Malcolm, who prefer to shout instead), but particularly Karen and Gen. Miller.
Gen. Miller:(discussing the amount of troops available for an invasion into Unspecifiedistan) "Twelve thousand troops. But that's not enough. That's the amount that are going to die. And at the end of a war you need some soldiers left, really. Or it looks like you've lost."
Determinator: Malcolm. He may be a sonofabitch, but he's devoted to his job to the point of near-insanity.
Malcolm Tucker: "Are you sure you're working as hard as me? 'cause I'm sweating spinal fluid. I'm a fucking husk."
Dirty Coward: So very many, from Toby giving PWIP PIP to his ex-girlfriend so he doesn't have to leak it himself, to Michael Rodgers following Jamie's orders so he can save his political career. The Doves all know how they can stop the war, but would rather go along with it and save their careers.
"I'm on the verge of taking a stand."
Notably highlighted in a scene where Toby, Simon and Judy are on their way to the UN, and Simon is hesitantly floating the notion that maybe it would be much braver to change his publicly expressed views and come down in support the war. Both Simon and Toby pointedly ignore Judy when she bluntly points out that no, it wouldn't be.
Eagleland: There is a culture shock for the visiting British dignitaries, but overall America comes across no more or less cynically than Britain. The British generally seem to kowtow to the Americans and are unsettled by how young many of their high-ranking officials are, but Malcolm Tucker still manages to browbeat everyone around him regardless of nationality.
It includes what Armando Iannucci refers to as "the Love Actually scene" in which Malcolm (walking past the Capitol in Washington) is seen on the phone to Judy (jogging past the Houses of Parliament in London).
This trope is lampshaded by Toby and Simon when they note that their hotel suite just about has a view of the Capitol.
Fish out of Water: All of the British characters in the US, but Simon Foster flaps about the most helplessly.
Foreshadowing: At one point, Simon floats the possibility of doing a U-turn on his public position and coming out in support of the war, wondering whether it would in fact be braver to do so than to stick with his publicly stated position. At the end, General Miller uses Simon's reasoning almost exactly to justify why he's not going to resign.
Although not strictly a hero, as his career rapidly takes a dive-plunge straight down the crapper Simon Foster ends up in the U.N. Mediation Room frantically eating mints, staring blankly into space and remarking that his internal thoughts seem to be an endless loop of him shouting "Oh, shit!" at himself in a distant voice "like a car alarm in the middle of the night".
Although the "heroic" part can be debated, Malcolm gets one of these moments near the end when he briefly thinks his efforts are falling apart. It lasts about 3 seconds before Xanatos Speed Chess takes over.
Hypocritical Humor: At one point, Simon assures Malcolm that he didn't become a minister by screwing up every public appearance he makes; however, in pretty much every public or official appearance that we see him make he's inarticulate, incompetent and only manages to bollocks things up for himself and everyone.
Paul Michaelson: "Am I calm? I'm fucking ZEN!"
And of course, there's this insult by Malcolm, who swears at Linton, but then realises that he disapproves of swearing. Malcolm then does a Verbal Backspace and then still swears at him.
Miller: "You're his little English bitch and you don't even know it. I bet if I went into your hotel room tonight I'd see on all four, little fishnets on, him hanging onto the back of you. [...] You may be a scary little poodlefucker back there in London, but here you're nothing. You know what you look like? A squeezed dick. You got a little blue vein running up the side of your head. That's where I'd put the bullet. But I'd have to stand back cause you look like you'd be a squirter."
Malcolm: "[..] Don't ever call me fucking English again."
Ice-Cream Koan: "In the Kingdom of Truth, the man with one fact is king." Linton likes to deliver these, which is probably why his butt kisser Chad is fond of them too. Chad's tend to be much, much worse, though:
Toby Wright: "You speak entirely in parables, don't you? You're like a crap Jesus."
Malcolm Tucker: "All roads lead to Munich?" What the fuck does that mean?"
Improbable Age: The British bureaucrats, especially Malcolm, are all creeped out that White House staffers seem way too young to have their level of authority. Malcolm mockingly calls them a "master race of highly gifted toddlers" when speaking to Iannuci, a more senior American staffer. Iannuci explains that US Senators and Congressman recruit bright young things from Ivy League universities...and take them with them when they become Secretaries or even President.
Lord Mandelson's claims for gardening expenses revealed he had been through a "diplomatic crisis" with a neighbour over neglect of his garden. His predicament was eerily similar to Simon Foster's as he struggled with Paul Michaelson (Steve Coogan) and his collapsing garden wall.
Made from Real Girl Scouts: Jamie assures Malcolm that he will be gentle with Simon and Toby: "Oh, you know me, Malc. Kid gloves... but made from real kids".
Married to the Job: Chad and all the young Whitehouse staffers. And Malcolm for that matter.
Toby's name is not Foetus Boy, Ron Weasely, Twatboy Slim or The Baby From Eraserhead, but Malcolm doesn't seem to care. He extends this selective amnesia to practically everyone he encounters, including Baldemort, General Flintstone and J Edgar fuckin' Hoover.
"Rob, Innes, Little Bo Cock Jockey and The Leaky fuckin' Minge Box, go back to your desks and prepare briefing."
Toby also receives a "Go fuck yourself, Frodo" from General Miller.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Malcolm Tucker is pretty widely seen as being a caricature of Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair's former press director. And it's pretty easy to see Linton Barwick as a Doug Feith or Paul Wolfowitz. Also, the whole film is a pretty thinly-veiled portrayal of the build-up to the war with Iraq.
No Party Given: As with the British government in the TV show, we never directly learn the political party of the governing U.S Administration. But, given the nature of the events depicted, we can take a pretty good guess.
Nobody Poops: The writers really like subverting this trope.
Oh Crap: Happens whenever a particularly bad piece of news is received (i.e. very frequently).
Older than They Look: The actors playing the young White House staffers ("Your master race of highly-gifted toddlers") are all Older Than They Look. As is Chris Addison.
Only Sane Man: Judy appears to be one of the only people in the movie with her head screwed on fully. Needless to say, everyone pretty much ignores or abuses her and Toby spends most of the movie actively plotting against her. She ends up having the last laugh over him as the whole thing ends up completely destroying his career while she emerges unscathed.
Orwellian Editor: Most notably, rewriting an intelligence report because it doesn't say what they want. But perhaps more disturbingly, Linton seems to treat his own memory of events this way:
Linton: "Went well in there." Aide: "Got a little hairy at times." Linton:(breezily) "No it didn't."
Pointy-Haired Boss: Simon Foster. Bored with his position and obsessed with PR. He is more worried about getting 'The funny question' right on Question Time than anything else.
Portmanteau: the original TV series coined the phrase "omnishambles." The movie attempts to do the same with "catastrofuck." (A variant, "clusterfuck", is also heard but was popular before this film.)
Professional Butt-Kisser: Chad. His desperate methods to get closer to Linton Barwick include carrying a squash racquet in the hope that Linton will see it and suggest a game. Unfortunately he forgets to take the price tags off first. Even more unfortunately, Linton clearly doesn't notice that Chad even exists in the first place. Ironically, for all his sucking up and Smug Snake behaviour, he ends up being shafted and left with the losing side, whereas Liza—over whom he has spent the entire movie trying to smugly lord it—ends up getting the position with Linton he's coveted.
Reassigned to Antarctica: Foster gets sacked from his Government Cabinet posting and has to return to his constituency. Leaving him back in the political wilderness.
Armando Iannucci ensured he could create a realistic portrayal of the US State Department by illegally infiltrating it. By using a fake BBC pass he was able to get past security and spend an hour inside taking photographs: "Part of me thought it was fun, another part thought it was probably international espionage".
James Gandolfini visited the Pentagon (legally) while researching for the part of General Miller. He went as far as getting a haircut from the Pentagon barber and having some scary conversations with generals. His recollection of one who couldn't actually remember if he'd killed anyone later inspired one of Malcolm's "Have you ever even actually killed anyone?" in the film.
Smug Snake: Chad. He likes to brag about his plans to become a senior aide to Linton, but his role as Linton's chief kiss-ass just antagonizes pretty much everyone... except Linton, who barely registers his existence, and can't even remember his name.
Stupid Statement Dance Mix: Among the "media forces of darkness" Malcolm threatens Simon with if he makes a fuss over being sacked is to have his "climb the mountain of conflict" comment made into one of these.
Malcolm: "Y'know, I've come across a lot of psychos, but none as fucking boring as you. You are a real boring fuck. Sorry, sorry, I know you disapprove of swearing so I'll sort that out. You are a boring F-star-star-CUNT!"
Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: After Simon reads "some extracts from the Riot Act" over turning up late and obviously hungover and unprepared to their meeting with Karen Clarke, Toby protests at this because "it's not like I threw up in there, is it?" Unfortunately for him, Simon has some problems with this line of defence:
Simon:No. You're right. I'm being unfair. I should be thanking you for not throwing up. Well done. You're a star. And you didn't wet yourself, did you? You're in the right city. You didn't say anything overtly racist. You didn't pull your dick out and start plucking it shouting "Willy Banjo!" No, I'm being really unfair! You got so much right... without actually being there for the beginning of one of the most important moments of my career. Thanks. You're a legend.
War Is Hell: "This is the problem with civilians wanting to go to war. Once you've been there you never want to go again unless you absolutely have to.... It's like France."
You Bastard: Malcolm is such a charming and charismatic character that audiences find themselves cheering him on as he tries to show Linton Barwick that he isn't a worthless piece of ess-star-star-tee... even though achieving this would also involve starting an illegal war.