“In the Loop,” a darkly funny satire of war planning by the U.S. and British governments, is the “Dr. Strangelove” of our time – a brilliant fictional account that will have audiences guessing which screwed-up character is based on which screwed-up real-life figure. British director Armando Iannucci told me that every big wig in the movie (which opens today) is a composite of different people – and that Henry Kissinger is one of them. How much of Dr. K informs “In the Loop” is open to question, but here’s what a State Department staffer told Iannucci on background: Kissinger was an insecure loudmouth – a kind of Woody Allen, only with different glasses and a diplomat’s C.V.
“At the State Deparment, somebody told me that Kissinger in his first two years (as Nixon’s secretary of state) was going around and saying, ‘Do you think Nixon likes me? Am I all right? Am I doing OK?’ ” Iannucci told me. “I’m thinking, that’s Henry Kissinger. Maybe he bombed Cambodia to impress his boss or as a way of going, ‘See? Was that good?’ ”
Kissinger’s insecurity has been well-documented for years, including in books and newspaper articles, but “In the Loop” is a reminder of just how short-sighted powerful people can be. We laugh at the characters’ egos and ineptness. Iannucci never mentions the word “Iraq” in his film, nor “Rumsfeld” or “Bush” or “Blair,” but the parallels to the 2003 invasion of Iraq – and other U.S. and British war-mongering – are obvious.
“What I don’t like is comedy that’s telling you what to think and has a message behind it that supercedes the comedy,” Iannucci told me. “The reason ‘In the Loop’ doesn’t use (words like ‘Iraq’) is that I wanted the film to feel slightly timeless. It’s obviously inspired by what happened six years ago, but the implication (of the film) is that it could happen again because people are people and people are fallible. And these big institutions that we see from the outside, like the State Department and Pentagon and Downing Street – inside, they’re offices. They’re just people at work scared of being found out, scared of making the wrong decisions.”