Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is one of the better black comedies I’ve seen in quite some time. Watching this film reminded me of Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove with it’s gallows humor and smart commentary of the social constructs in a tumultuous time.
Based on a French graphic novel by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin, The Death of Stalin takes place in 1953 right as Joseph Stalin has suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. Other than brief establishing scenes, Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) is a corpse throughout the movie which is too bad, McLoughlin kills it as Stalin! No matter, this film is more about the ensued chaos upon Stalin’s death and that’s where this movie shines the most!
In depicting Stalin’s cabinet members as a bunch of scheming sniveling bureaucrats, Iannucci paints a realistic picture of how awful people’s lust for power can be. In fact, there were moments in the film I was laughing at the profane humor all the while saddened in it’s realism. It’s not so funny when in it’s fabrications theres a little truth. Just look at our current political environment and how mean spirited and separated our society has become because of myopic leaders.
The assembled cast of actors are a who’s who of character actors. Steve Buscemi is perfect as the future leader Nikita Khrushchev, Jeffrey Tambor plays Georgy Malenkov (First Secretary), Michael Palin plays Vyacheslav Molotov (Foreign Affairs Secretary) and lastly Jason Isaacs plays Field Marshal Zhukovan. As always, Buscemi is wonderful in his role sans a Russian accent. In fact, most of the actors had english accents which really added a Monty Python like vibe throughout each scene.
The true genius of The Death of Stalin is it’s ability to guard the real atrocities of Stalin’s rule while allowing the audience to laugh at the pathetic actions and Machiavellian entanglements at play. While I haven’t laughed this much in quite some time, be aware, it’s humor has many layers and may not be for everyone. If you love black comedies and don’t mind a sarcastic tone, watch this film. It’s one of my favorites for 2018.
Rating: 4.5 stars
The one-liners fly as fast as political fortunes fall in this uproarious, wickedly irreverent satire from Armando Iannucci (Veep, In the Loop). Moscow, 1953: when tyrannical dictator Joseph Stalin drops dead, his parasitic cronies square off in a frantic power struggle to be the next Soviet leader. Among the contenders are the dweeby Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), the wily Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), and the sadistic secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale). But as they bumble, brawl, and backstab their way to the top, just who is running the government? Combining palace intrigue with rapid-fire farce, this audacious comedy is a bitingly funny takedown of bureaucratic dysfunction performed to the hilt by a sparkling ensemble cast.
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough
Directed by: Armando Iannucci
Screenplay by: Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, Peter Fellows