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Combat political anxiety with In the Loop, a rip-roaring satire by the creator of Veep

This week’s streaming pick has it all: government disarray, big egos, mixed messages, and more.

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Peter Capaldi and James Gandolfini argue vehemently in In the Loop
Peter Capaldi and James Gandolfini have it out
Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Every weekend, we pick a movie you can stream that dovetails with current events. Old, new, blockbuster, arthouse: They’re all fair game. What you can count on is a weekend watch that sheds new light on the week that was. The movie of the week for November 13 through 19 is In the Loop (2009), which is streaming on Netflix and Hulu and available to digitally rent on Amazon.

This week, most of the energy in news reporting and social media explosion went toward President-elect Trump’s transition, which has, by most accounts (except his own) hit a few snags. The last few paragraphs from a New York Times piece on Tuesday were startling, even by 2016 standards:

Teams throughout the federal government that have prepared briefing materials and reports for the incoming president’s team are on standby, waiting to begin passing the information to counterparts on Mr. Trump’s staff.

As of Tuesday afternoon, officials at key agencies including the Justice and Defense Departments said they had received no contact from the president-elect’s team.

All these high-stakes games of telephone, with people’s egos used as poker chips, are the meat and potatoes of In the Loop, a movie I love unreservedly. It’s a spin-off of the hysterical British show The Thick of It (which you can stream at Hulu), a comedy about the adventures of a minor government minister who can’t seem to catch a break — especially from the Prime Minister’s foul-mouthed “enforcer” — and his more or less competent aides. Think House of Cards, except nobody manages to get anything done and there’s a lot more profanity.

In the Loop preserves a number of cast members from the show — most importantly, Peter Capaldi as the PM’s enforcer — as well as its director and head writer, Armando Ianucci, who is also the creator and former showrunner of HBO’s Veep.

In the Loop satirizes the inefficiency of government by looping the American relationship with Britain into the story and making the stakes very high. Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) — the Minister for International Development and a man with a considerable inferiority complex — accidentally says during a radio interview that a war in the Middle East is “unforeseeable,” a baffling statement at any time but especially inconvenient during a period in which both the US and UK are considering intervention in the Middle East.

Things spiral quite drastically from there. Ministers and aides and generals and the United Nations all get involved, and personal relationships — friends, enemies, allies, and current and former sexual dalliances — get in the way. It’s a glorious mess, with Capaldi swearing a blue streak straight through it.

Whether it will make you feel better or worse about the US government and the Trump transition probably depends on your tolerance for very dark comedy. Depending on how dystopic your imagination is at this point, the film might seem like a throwback to kinder, gentler days. But perhaps, in some small measure, it’s good to remember that bureaucratic rigamarole is an old story. And maybe, in between all this flailing, it’s okay to laugh for a minute or two.

Watch the trailer for In the Loop: