It was always rather inevitable that I would go and see In The Loop - Armando Iannucci has barely ever put a foot wrong, Peter Capaldi and Tom Hollander are such commanding actors, and I am a big fan of Chris Addison's stand-up.
But they have also had great PR behind them, and some stunning reviews, all of which meant expectations were high. It is great to be able to say, then that the film lived up to them - in fact, it is one of those films that compel you to smile constantly and splutter with laughter frequently.
Iannucci has tried to distance the film from too intellectual a label by describing it as a 'screwball comedy' as opposed to a political satire, but in fact it lies somewhere between the two and does both very, very well.
On one hand, it is certainly a 'how it could have happened (and very probably did)' look at the lead up to the war in Iraq, and it captures brilliantly that feeling a lot of us had at the time that the conflict was going to happen one way or another, because those in power had decided it was going to go ahead. And in this film, too, just-about-anti-war cabinet member Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) is placated, cajoled and buffeted back and forth while those with real influence on both sides of the pond get on with the real business of planning for war.
On the other hand, though, there is an element of farce here (which is perhaps inherent in any film about politics, but played up here), plenty of brilliant schoolboy sniping, and a real joy about much of the film despite the subject matter - a joy which only recedes in the rather sombre last quarter when it becomes obvious that nothing is going to stop the war.
Simon Foster, it should be said, is just a wonderful character. At first a hapless, ineffectual, and possibly rather dim minister, whom we laugh at for being way out of his depth, he slowly turns into something almost heroic as those around them lose their nerve and switch allegiance. His aide, Toby (Addison), seems harmless enough, but ultimately displays a particularly nasty combination of cowardice and self-preservation, and the delightfully sweary spin doctor Malcolm (Capaldi) is just far too ruthless for the likes of Foster to pose him any sort of challenge. In this company, you can't help but throw your support behind Foster, despite all his muddled bumbling.
Thanks to a combination of sparky but thoughtful writing and great performances (the rapport between Hollander and Addison, who probably have the most screen-time, is especially wonderful), this is a film that is funny, clever, really quite warm, and which has something to say without being preachy. And, as such, it deserves a second viewing.