MOVIE REVIEW: The Death of Stalin

The chaos of the aftermath from the death of the Dictator Stalin is told by The Thick of It and In the Loop Director Armando Ianucci.  Stalin rules The Soviet Union with a grip of iron and fear.  Please him and it’s a life on easy street, but get on his bad side, or the bad side of his team, and you disappear.  When he has a health scare and dies the scramble for power and to make sure that everything remains in place becomes farcical.

I loved The Thick of It and In the Loop, but even before that the comedy of Armando Ianucci has entertained and shocked me pleasantly for years.  I didn’t know that this was directed by the man until after the film ended, which made a lot of sense to me, as I laughed through the whole of this film and felt exceptionally guilty for doing so.  The reason for the guilt is that you are laughing at the terrible things that this regime did to the people of the Soviet Union.  Rape, torture, murder, and beyond just a constant living nightmare for the people.  You could be taken off the street and never be seen again for the most simplistic of perceived slights against Stalin or any of his staff.  I sat watching this film and would laugh, then realise what I was laughing at, and feel exceptionally horrible about myself for laughing.  That is both an awful and rather amazing thing for a film to get the audience to do.

So you take all the historical facts and people and give them a comedic twist, stealing from the best slapstick and farce comedies of the past, and giving them a major injection of gravitas.  Just the fact that making the major players of the communist party of the time comic foils is a task in itself but bringing characters who murdered thousands and making them likable just makes any creative feel as though they are watching a master at work.  Simon Russell Beale plays the rather dangerous Beria who was a complete Monster but was more the conductor than Stalin.  It’s a wonderful performance in the middle of a lot of amazing performances.  The rest of the cast includes Steve Buscemi, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Palin, Rupert Friend, Jeffrey Tambor, Paddy Considine, Paul Whitehouse, and Jason Isaacs.  I’m calling out Rupert Friend and Jason Isaacs for giving some great comedy.  Friend plays Stalin’s son who is a drunkard and a fool, while Isaacs plays an Army general who is a force of nature.

What I loved here in a pool of loving this movie was that the actors didn’t do accents, they did what you can assume is their natural voices.  This sounds like it’s idiotic but it works better than them trying to do fake Russian accents.  Jeffrey Tambor is an amazing comic actor and his bumbling second in charge character, Malenkov, fumbles through his new role taking over from Stalin.

The struggle for power which would have been scary in the reality of the situation but Armando adds in the comedy that the situation needs to make it part of the film.  I honestly think though that as much as making you feel guilty for laughing at the situations the film has that as it’s only downfall.  I was trying to explain what I laughed at to a friend after the screening and he gave me the WTF look that only your friends can give you when you find something offensive funny.  With that being said I’d pay into the cinema a hundred times to watch this again and again.  It is intelligent comedy that carries you off and without doubt one of the most funny comedies of the year.  Yes I am ashamed for laughing at some moments but ever so happy that I had something to laugh at.  Do not miss this, it is the comedy of the year!

Director: Armando Iannucci
Writers: Armando IannucciDavid Schneider
Stars: Jason IsaacsAndrea RiseboroughOlga Kurylenko & more See full cast & crew


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