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The film is set in a slightly different universe from the series, this time with the action unfolding across the United Kingdom and United States. It features most of the original cast, with most of them playing new (but strangely familiar) roles.
Tom Hollander joins the cast as Simon Foster, the hapless Minister for International Development. Peter Capaldi returns as Malcolm Tucker, the Prime Minister's Director of Communications, who is called upon to stop Foster fucking things up. Foster is also joined by his junior aide Toby Wright, played by Chris Addison.
When Foster makes two contradictory statements regarding a possible war in an unspecified Middle Eastern country, he finds himself summoned to a fact-finding mission in Washington, where he is used to push arguments both for and against the war. As the Brits comes face to face with their infinitely more powerful US counterparts, including the hawkish Linton Barwick (David Rasche) and the dovish General Miller (James Gandolfini), they realise they are totally out of their depth.
As the movie is a spin-off set in the same universe as the series, the two share many tropes. Tropes that originated in the TV series may be better placed on the page for The Thick of It.
This movie contains examples of:
- Angrish: Malcolm's gift for baroque swearing briefly deserts him in the Meditation Room.
- Antiquated Linguistics: This is how Malcolm sees the use of the word "purview" by Simon's aide, Judy Malloy:
"Within your purview? Where do you think you are, in some fucking regency costume drama? This is a government department, not a fucking Jane fucking Austen novel! Allow me to pop a jaunty little bonnet on your purview and ram it up the shitter with a lubricated horse cock!"
- Armchair Military: General Miller currently, though he admits to having killed people 15 years ago so it presumably didn't always apply.
Malcolm Tucker: Falling asleep on someone doesn't count.
- Ax Crazy: Jamie. In one famous scene he's even fax crazy.
- Bad News in a Good Way: After Michael admits to leaking PWIP-PIP, Jamie later barges into his office to cheerfully inform him that he isn't fired, asking if that isn't a good thing. Michael notes that it sounds omnious. He's right too.
- Bastard Understudy: Jamie. "My theory is Malcolm built him in a lab, from bits of old psychopaths."
- Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Liza Weld. Not that her party are the Republicans, of course.
- Brains and Brawn: Malcolm plays Xanatos Speed Chess at the UN as Jamie smashes up fax machines in London.
- Briar Patching: "Please, this garden wall story... please, don't run with that because my reputation will be in tatters..." ...and Simon Foster is gone.
- Brick Joke: A subtle one. Judy guesses Toby's name as being Daniel or a variation, because new people apparently often had that name. Come the end of the film, Toby's replacement turns out to be called "Danny Dan".
- Britain Versus the UK: Not so much subverted as set straight: "Don't ever call me fucking English again."
- Chewing the Scenery:
- While he's certainly no Large Ham, Peter Capaldi acts so hard his temple veins start throbbing:
"You know what you look like? A squeezed dick. You've got that little blue vein running up the side of your head..."
- General Miller
- Cloudcuckoolander: Linton Barwick is an extremely unsettling version. His casual disregard for reality (changing minutes and wholesale rewriting of intelligence reports) mirrors Malcolm's attitude toward spin and damage control, but without any of the irony. As Karen Clarke puts it, the voices in his head are "singing barbershop together". And apart from his Ice Cream Koans, there are his odd almost-but-not-quite non sequiturs.
Linton: Glass offices, in my opinion, are for perverts.
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Hey buddy, enough of the curse words, alright?" No, it's not alright: practically every line uttered by Malcolm or Jamie is a Cluster F-Bomb. Malcolm's response to the gentleman who confronts him about this is no exception: "Kiss my sweaty balls, you fat fuck!"
- Comedic Sociopathy: With his big baldy head, Sir Jonathan Tutt is a magnet for it.
- Compensating for Something: Toby makes some sn****ring comments of this nature about the Washington Monument. Malcolm bluntly shuts him up by caustically remarking that the only way Toby is ever likely to get anything remotely similar to commemorate his life is if "you buy a fucking Toblerone."
- Compliment Backfire: "What am I? Tit meat?"
- Control Freak: Linton, to the extent that he objects to I Heart Huckabees being listed as an appropriate DVD for the American military roster. Purely because he thinks it's self-indulgent rubbish.
- "We've got to get hold of those minutes, I have to correct the record."
- Country Matters
- Cringe Comedy: "It's difficult... difficult... lemon difficult."
- Also Toby's anti-war shag.
- Toby and Simon don't know in which room the meeting is being held, leading to a misunderstanding outside the ladies bathroom.
- Curse Cut Short: "A certain vinegar-faced manipulative cowbag is about to discover that she is out of a fu-"
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: "DO YOU WANT ME TO HOLEPUNCH YOUR FACE?"
- "If you don't get me fuckin' Brian, I'm gonna come over there, I'm gonna lock you in a fuckin' floation tank and fill it full of sewage until ya fuckin' drown!"
- "I'm gonna fuckin' take your leg off, and I'll... fuckin'... the shin bone! I'm gonna take the shin bone, I'm gonna break it in two and I'm going to fucking stab you to fucking death with it..."
- Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much everyone (except Jamie and Malcolm, who prefer to shout instead), but particularly Karen and Gen. Miller.
Gen. Miller: [discussing the amount of troops available for an invasion into Unspecifiedistan] Twelve thousand troops. But that's not enough. That's the amount that are going to die. And at the end of a war you need some soldiers left, really. Or it looks like you've lost.
- Determinator: Malcom. He may be a sonofabitch, but he's devoted to his job to the point of near-insanity.
"I hope you're working as hard as I am. I'm sweating spinal fluid."
- Dirty Coward: So very many, from Toby giving PWIP PIP to his ex-girlfriend so he doesn't have to leak it himself, to Michael Rodgers MP following Jamie's orders so he can save his political career. The Doves all know how they can stop the war, but would rather go along with it and save their careers.
- "I'm on the verge of taking a stand."
- Notably highlighted in a scene where Toby, Simon and Judy are on their way to the UN, and Simon is hesitantly floating the notion that maybe it would be much braver to change his publicly expressed views and come down in support the war. Both Simon and Toby pointedly ignore Judy when she bluntly points out that no, it wouldn't be.
- Downer Ending
- Eagle Land: Being an incredibly cynical film the US is portrayed as being closer to Flavour 2, complete with power-crazed warmongers and an overweight American tourist... but being a rather self-loathing film, the Brits are portrayed as being no better.
- Establishing Character Moment: "How'd your team do at the weekend?" "Alright, we won!" "Yeah? Hehehehe... wanker."
- Establishing Shot: The film opens with a shot of Malcolm sweeping into Number 10 in his Badass Longcoat. It continues in this vein as the action moves between Whitehall, the White House, the UN building and Simon's constituency in Northamptonshire.
- It includes what Armando Iannucci refers to as "the Love Actually scene" in which Malcolm (walking past the Capitol in Washington) is seen on the phone to Judy (jogging past the Houses of Parliament in London).
- This trope is lampshaded by Toby and Simon when they note that their hotel suite just about has a view of the Capitol.
- It is also lampshaded by Toby after they all fly back to the UK: "From White House to Shite House".
- Expy: Several of the cast for their equivalents in The Thick of It:
- Toby is Olly Reeder
- Roz is Terri Coverley
- Michael is Glen Cullen
- Sir Jonathan Tutt is Julius, Lord Nicholson of Arnage
- Eye Take: There is a positvely epic one in the Meditation Room scene.
- Fish Out of Water: All of the British characters in the US, but Simon Foster flaps about the most helplessly.
- Foe Yay: Jamie to Judy: "I'm quite aroused by the idea of giving you a long... hard... disciplinary hearing"
- Followed by a nice moment for Judy, when she actually manages to shut Jamie up by coolly remarking that she would quite enjoy the "big... fat... compensation payment" she would receive as a result.
- Fun with Acronyms: PWIP PIP
- Gilligan Cut: Malcolm asks Sir Jonathan Tutt to reschedule the UN vote. "It cannot be done and it will not be done", but it is. Twice.
- Girly Run: "Where's the War Committee?" Malcolm gets lost in Washington... and again at the UN.
- Toby bursting in late smelling like a pissed seaside donkey.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Jamie seems permanently pissed off and ready to explode into violent rage at the drop of a pin.
Jamie: Right, that's enough of the fucking Oxbridge pleasantries...
- Paul Michaelson also has a Hair-Trigger Temper, primed to take offense at anything anyone says.
- Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee: Inverted: everyone's dying to be part of the so-called 'Future Planning Committee', better known as the War Committee.
- Heroic BSOD: Although not strictly a hero, as his career rapidly takes a dive-plunge straight down the crapper Simon Foster ends up in the U.N Mediation Room frantically eating mints, staring blankly into space and remarking that his internal thoughts seem to be an endless loop of him shouting "Oh, shit!" at himself in a distant voice "like a car alarm in the middle of the night".
- Homage Shot: "Don't raise your voice. This is a sacred place." Linton reminds Malcolm that you can't fight in here, this is the Meditation Room.
- Hypocritical Humor: At one point, Simon assures Malcolm that he didn't become a minister by screwing up every public appearance he makes; however, in pretty much every public or official appearance that we see him make he's inarticulate, incompetent and only manages to bollocks things up for himself and everyone.
- Paul Michaelson: "Am I calm? I'm fucking ZEN!"
- I Am Spartacus: Referenced in the infamous fax machine scene.
- I Call Him "Mister Happy": "Little Toby is staying very much in his hammock this evening..."
- Ice Cream Koan: "In the Kingdom of Truth, the man with one fact is king." Linton likes to deliver these, which is probably why his butt kisser Chad is fond of them too. Chad's tend to be much, much worse, though:
Toby Wright: You speak entirely in parables, don't you? You're like a crap Jesus.
- I'm Standing Right Here: "I'm here, I'm there, I'm fuckin' everywhere. I'm the Eggman!"
- Incredibly Lame Pun: "You hanging, Chad?" More of an Incredibly Inevitable Pun.
- Instant Waking Skills: Toby, the anti-war morning after.
- Invisible President: Both the US President and the UK Prime Minister are invisible.
- Kavorka Man: Toby Wright somehow manages to sleep with Michael's aide Suzy and with Liza Weld despite being one of the film's least likeable characters, and despite looking like a gangly pasty-faced 12-year-old.
- Of course this just refers to the character, and certainly not the actor who plays him.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Subverted to make Malcolm's final words to Linton more offensive.
- Lean and Mean: Malcolm, as a result of stress, running everywhere, and existing on a diet of coffee.
- Leave Him to Me: Malcolm directs Simon Foster to steer clear of Linton Barwick. "I'll deal with him."
- Life Imitates Art: The MPs expenses scandal revealed two beautiful examples:
- Simon Foster avoids watching a hotel's porn channel for fear that it will "show up in the register of interests". Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's husband wasn't quite so careful.
- Lord Mandelson's claims for gardening expenses revealed he had been through a "diplomatic crisis" with a neighbour over neglect of his garden. His predicament was eerily similar to Simon Foster's as he struggled with Paul Michaelson (Steve Coogan) and his collapsing garden wall.
- Made From Real Girl Scouts: Jamie assures Malcolm that he will be gentle with Simon and Toby: "Oh, you know me, Malc. Kid gloves... but made from real kids."
- Married to the Job: Chad and all the young Whitehouse staffers. And Malcolm for that matter.
- Men Are Uncultured: Jamie: "What's the name of the fuck with the fiddle?" Michael Rodgers knows that it happens to be Debussy.
- Mistaken Nationality: Malcolm has no problem with swearing but takes offence at being called the E-word.
- Newspeak: It's not the 'War' Committee; it's the 'Future Planning Committee'.
- The Nicknamer: Toby's name is not Foetus Boy, Ron Weasely, Twatboy Slim or The Baby From Eraserhead, but Malcolm doesn't seem to care. He extends this selective amnesia to practically everyone he encounters, including Baldemort, General Flintstone and J Edgar fuckin' Hoover.
"Rob, Innes, Little Bo Cock Jockey and The Leaky fuckin' Minge Box, go back to your desks and prepare briefing."
- Toby also receives a "Go fuck yourself, Frodo" from General Miller.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed
- To expand on this a little, Malcolm Tucker is pretty widely seen as being a caricature of Alistair Campbell, Tony Blair's former press director. And it's pretty easy to see Linton Barwick as a Doug Feith or Paul Wolfowitz. Also, the whole film is a pretty thinly-veiled portrayal of the buildup to Iraq.
- No Party Given: As with the British government in the TV show, we never directly learn the political party of the governing U.S Administration. But, given the nature of the events depicted, we can take a pretty good guess.
- Nobody Poops: The writers really like subverting this trope.
- Oh Crap: Happens whenever a particularly bad piece of news is received (ie. very frequently).
- A slightly different one happens when Malcolm and General Miller finally have the face-to-face confrontation they've been building up to. Miller says "I'll punch you in the face so hard you'll be shitting teeth", which Malcolm is completely unperturbed by because he makes Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon threats all the time, and it would be extremely damaging to Miller's career. However, one staring match later, Malcolm realises that Miller actually would do it, regardless of the political damage. His attempt at brushing it off and ending the conversation is handled fairly well, but he is clearly backing down. This makes Miller possibly the only character in either the film or the TV series to make Malcolm run away from an argument.
- Older Than They Look: The actors playing the young White House staffers ("Your master race of highly-gifted toddlers") are all Older Than They Look. As is Chris Addison.
- One-Scene Wonder: Steve Coogan is in the movie for probably five minutes at tops. He's nevertheless one of the best things in it, which is pretty impressive considering what he's up against.
- Only Sane Woman: Judy appears to be one of the only people in the movie with her head screwed on fully. Needless to say, everyone pretty much ignores or abuses her and Toby spends most of the movie actively plotting against her. She ends up having the last laugh over him as the whole thing ends up completely destroying his career while she emerges unscathed.
- Playing Against Type: James Gandolfini as Pentagon Dove General Miller
- Professional Butt-Kisser: Chad. His desperate methods to get closer to Linton Barwick include carrying a squash racquet in the hope that Linton will see it and fancy a game. Unfortunately he forgets to take the price tags off first. Ironically, for all his sucking up and Smug Snake behaviour, he ends up being shafted and left with the losing side, whereas Liza — who he has spent the entire movie trying to smugly lord it over — ends up getting the position with Linton he's coveted.
- "He's wearing his push-up bra today!"
- Separated by a Common Language: The film gets in a reminder that no-one swears like the British:
Karen Clarke: "You just sat there like a... what do you call it in England? A wanker!"
- Shown Their Work: Armando Iannucci ensured he could create a realistic portrayal of the US State Department by illegally infiltrating it. By using a fake BBC pass he was able to get past security and spend an hour inside taking photographs: "Part of me thought it was fun, another part thought it was probably international espionage."
- James Gandolfini visited the Pentagon (legally) while researching for the part of General Miller. He went as far as getting a haircut from the Pentagon barber and having some scary conversations with generals. His recollection of one who couldn't actually remember if he'd killed anyone later inspired one of Malcolm's "Have you ever even actually killed anyone?" in the film.
- Smug Snake: Chad. He likes to brag about his plans to become a senior aide to Linton, but his role as Linton's chief kiss-ass just antagonises pretty much everyone... except Linton, who barely registers his existence, and can't even remember his name.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The UK trailer is pretty much the whole film condensed into two minutes. Lucky non-UK audiences got the delightful Dr. Strangelove-inspired trailer instead.
- Unnecessary Censorship: Linton, who hates cursing to the extent of calling Malcolm a "useless piece of S-star-star-T". Malcolm's later response is fantastic:
Malcolm: Y'know, I've come across a lot of psychos, but none as fucking boring as you. You are a real boring fuck. Sorry, sorry, I know you disapprove of swearing so I'll sort that out. You are a boring F-star-star-CUNT!
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Most of the cast but Toby arguably comes across as the most dislikable, being the particularly obnoxious combination of selfish, weak and self righteous.
- Unusual Euphemism:
Liza: How far would you go with Linton, you freaky little stalker? Downtown? Or all the way up Brokeback Mountain?
- Villain Protagonist: Malcolm. In the series he's more of a Type V Anti-Hero.
- Villainous BSOD: In the Meditation Room Malcolm finds himself lost for words, unable to think of a decent threat for Olly, before Olly leaves him staring into space.
- Violent Glaswegian: Malcolm and Jamie ride again: "The fax machine was there and it's easier to kick."
- Although Malcolm's more violent in 'will shout very loudly and very offensively at you' sense, whereas Jamie is more likely to get physical.
- Walk and Talk: "...and he is gone!"
- "I'm really quite badly scalded now!"
- War Is Hell: "This is the problem with civilians wanting to go to war. Once you've been there you never want to go again unless you absolutely have to.... It's like France. "
- The White House
- You Bastard: Malcolm is such a charming and charismatic character that audiences find themselves cheering him on as he tries to show Linton Barwick that he isn't a worthless piece of ess-star-star-tee... even though achieving this would also involve starting an illegal war.