The Death of Stalin

Follows the Soviet dictator’s last days and depicts the chaos of the regime after his death.

When it comes to political satire no one in recent times can hold a candle to Armando Iannucci, who has tackled both British and American politics superbly through the likes of ‘The Thick of It’, ‘Veep’ and ‘In The Loop’. His latest venture switches tack from modern Western politics to 1950s communist Russia and the dying throes of Joseph Stalin’s reign, focusing on his death and the battle amongst his central committee to gain power in the aftermath. This grim period of communist Russia may not immediately strike you as ripe material for a comedy, but that ignores the incredible skill and talent Iannucci has to wring comedy from even the bleakest of situations, and ‘The Death of Stalin’ is very, very funny.

The film begins shortly before Stalin’s demise, allowing Iannucci to immerse the audience in the environment and in particular to depict the fear and paranoia instilled in every character, where one wrong step could lead to their death. There are plenty of laughs through this opening as the committee all try to impress Stalin with a series of jokes, and an official (Paddy Considine) struggles to obtain a recording of a concert for the leader. Once Stalin dies the film really gets into gear as the various members of the ensemble start to plot and grapple for power, with often hilarious results. The ensemble is one of the film’s main strengths and Iannucci gets the same brilliant camaraderie that characterises the best episodes of ‘Veep’, with the likes of Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale and Jason Isaacs in particular really excelling. All of the actors use their natural accents as opposed to put on attempts at Russian and this kind of works for the warped retelling of history the film is going for.

The narrative is based on real history, and loosely taken from a French graphic novel of the same name, albeit much of the comedic elements have certainly been added. I was expecting an outright comedy, so I was a little surprised that the film had more of a focus on the historical elements of the plot, although I think this was a good thing as it was both funny and informative! ‘The Death of Stalin’ is another wickedly funny political satire from Armando Iannucci and I can’t wait to see what he turns his hand to next.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Armando Iannucci

Starring: Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Paddy Considine, Adrian McLoughlin and Paul Whitehouse

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