In the Loop offers a fictionalized backstage look at American and British diplomatic and government machinations during the build-up to a Middle East war, its scathing Colbert Report-by-way-of-Dr. Strangelove screwball comedy energized by rat-a-tat-tat verbal zingers. Armando Iannucci’s feature debut (expanded from his BBC comedy The Thick of It) is a razor-sharp farce that imparts insights from all directions – the unwarranted egomania of mid-level politicos, the cunning deceptions of spin doctors, the bluster of militaristic suits, and the cutthroat selfishness and hard-partying wildness of young, hungry staffers and assistants. Iannucci’s story concerns the fallout from Minister for International Development Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) giving an unauthorized opinion on radio that war is “unforeseeable,” a statement that sends his boss, the Prime Minster’s Director of Communications Malcolm Tucker (Scottish scene-stealer Peter Capaldi), into fits of apoplectic profanity. Capaldi’s barrage of hilariously inventive vulgarity gives In the Loop its nasty edge, while Foster and his new assistant Toby (Chris Addison) lend the material its awkward Office-style drollness. Just about everyone involved is in top form, including James Gandolfini as an American Lieutenant General opposed to conflict, Anna Chlumsky as the right-hand-woman to US Assistant Secretary for Diplomacy Karen Clark (Mimi Kennedy), and David Rasche as a Rumsfeldian blowhard with no qualms about fudging evidence to help his warmongering aims. In its portrait of the myriad competing and/or parallel self-interests that help drive national policy to fruition, Iannucci’s film gets not only the big picture right but also the details, laying out, with more quotable bon mots than any film in recent memory, the intricate, often nonsensical series of deals, subterfuge, and compromises that form the backbone of our seriously screwy – and screwed-up – democratic systems.