Long ago, the road to war was simple: heartless aggressor does something nasty (e.g., assassination, bombing, rape and pillage) to a ripe-for-the-taking opponent. Allies may or may not be drawn in (largely depending on economics rather than morality). Bloody carnage ensues.
Cut to the sage words of fictitious General George Miller (James Gandolfini): “At the end of the war, you need some troops left [alive] to declare victory.”
Eventually (from 6 days to “The Hundred Years”) the winner is declared, peace treaty “negotiated” and calm returns.
Change aggressors, repeat and stir the pot of discontent until the end of time (or suicide nuke-bombers send everyone to Hades or virginal bliss as befits their lot in life and death).
In director/co-writer Armando Iannucci’s (along with fellow-writers Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Ian Martin and Tony Roche) behind-the-scenes look at just-below the U.K. Prime Minister’s and U.S. President’s (heard from but, ironically rich, never seen so as to protect the guilty) senior elected officials and their ambitious staffers, the road to war in an unnamed country (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) is paved with yuks, fucks and internal/bilateral back-stabbing that threatens to be bloodier that the unnecessary conflict.
Trying to mix humour into the situations (blissfully committed executive assistant sleeps through power meeting that his one-night-stand manages to primp and attend: “You looked so comfy—didn’t want to wake you …”) and Gatling-gun dialogue (“We don’t need any more facts.”) should have made for a much funnier film than it is.
Sadly, because a lot of this fiction is too true to be good, the very likelihood that something akin to this production might bamboozle most of the world (er, hello there Jean Chrétien) into believing that Iraq had to be invaded, creates a decidedly bitter taste in the craw-of-honour once the credits start rolling.
Only listing those who have perished (on both “sides”) could have added more punch.
Peter Capaldi is “fucking” glorious as the UK’s communication Czar; Tom Hollander brings his decidedly vague charm and delectable understatement capabilities to the role of cabinet minister Simon Foster, whose attempt to use the political tool of resignation-to-effect-change has unexpected repercussions for many; Mimi Kennedy gives a bloody-tooth gem of a performance playing U.S. mover-some-shaker, Karen Clarke, even as her right-hand girl Liza Weld (Anna Chlumsky) is the readily beddable model of executive assistant efficiency; as Toby Wright, the baby-faced, inadvertent dropper of state briefs, wayward dropper of his own, Chris Addison finds a convincing mix of naïveté and ambition, but pales in comparison to Zach Woods’ delightfully opportunistic brown-nosing character of Chad (what a fine Floridian reference that is!).
Much of the music has a decidedly classical bent, notably Corelli’s Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No. 8 being bowed into service for the airport sequences and a touch of J.S. Bach for the closing credits.
Lots of laughs are available for those who don’t want to look too deep below the surface and realize that a deadly combination of overly ambitious bureaucrats, poll-reading politicians and military with empires to build is no joke to the thousands of innocent lives lost in consequence. JWR