The Death of Stalin

"Very Good"

The Death of Stalin Review


Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not want to miss this raucously hilarious political satire from the same creator, Armando Iannucci. This time he has gone back in history to 1953, giving his snappy dialogue to the Russians jostling for control after the Soviet leader's sudden demise. The setting makes it a lot darker than Iannucci's previous work, but it's packed with unforgettable one-liners, visual gags and pointed observations on politics today.

 

In the wake of Stalin's death, his successors aren't sure whether they should continue with his campaign of terror against Russian citizens. Dopey deputy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) wants to maintain the status quo, while more progressive Krushchev (Steve Buscemi) is looking for change. Their main rival is Beria (Simon Russell Beale), a thug who likes young girls. Then the enthusiastic General Zhukov (Jason Isaacs) charges in, deciding that they need to push Beria out and go in another direction. Meanwhile, Stalin's spoiled children (Rupert Friend and Andrea Riseborough) are determined that they should have a say in any new government, but everyone else knows that their days are numbered.

 

There are quite a few more characters swirling around in these backroom conversations, played by ace actors like Michael Palin, Paddy Considine and Paul Whitehouse, plus Olga Kurylenko as a lofty pianist. Everyone creates a vivid character who indulges in hilarious desperation, knowing that one false move will result in death. Obviously, this is not an easy topic for comedy, and the fact that it's based on history removes any genuine intrigue, because where it goes is a matter of record. This leaves the plot spinning its wheels, struggling to generate either suspense or surprises. Still, the dialogue is so well-written and played that we never stop laughing at these ridiculous people.

 

The primary scene-chewer here is Isaacs, who effortlessly steals focus as he infuses the film with a sense of mischief. Buscemi, Tambor and Beale are also hilarious as three men plotting how to cling to the last vestiges of their power. And both Friend and Riseborough steal their scenes as brats who indulge in their own forms of self-pity. Iannucci is so good at orchestrating a large cast and dense comedy that it makes no difference that characters are speaking a mix of American, British and weirdly accented English in 1950s Moscow. And as it resonates in a generic "politicians are idiots" kind of way, the humour is so fast and pointed that it keeps us thoroughly entertained.



Facts and Figures

Genre: Comedy

Production compaines: Quad Productions, Free Range Films, Title Media, Main Journey

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Producer: Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, , Laurent Zeitoun, Yann Zenou

Starring: as Nikita Khrushchev, as Lavrentiy Beria, as Georgy Malenkov, as General Georgy Zhukov, as Vasily Stalin, as Vyacheslav Molotov, as Comrade Andryev, as Svetlana Stalin, as Maria Yudina, as Anastas Mikoyan, Adrian McLoughlin as Joseph Stalin, Cara Horgan as Lidiya Timashuk, as Mezhnikov, Gerald Lepkowski as Leonid Brezhnev, Justin Edwards as Spartak Sokolov, as Nicolai Bulganin, June Watson as Matryona Petrovna, Daniel Tuite as Slimonov, Adam Shaw as Ilyin, as Kaganovich, as Tarasov, as Musician

Contactmusic


Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.