Film Review: The Death Of Stalin

I'll keep this review brief because if you have good taste in comedy you will have seen The Death Of Stalin already.

Director Armando Iannucci has already sent up British and American politics brilliantly in The Thick of It and Veep and here he ups the ante, adding a level of genuine brutality not seen in his work before. We know Iannucci can do exquisitely funny dialogue but here it is combined with something much darker. The year is 1953, Soviet leader Stalin has just died and members of his politburo are jostling for power.

The cast is uniformly excellent – and in excellent uniforms. Jason Isaacs as head of the military Zhukov has so many medals on his tunic you wonder how he manages to stand up. They all perform with non-Russian accents. So Steve Buscemi's scheming Khrushchev and Jeffrey Tambor's ineffectual deputy Malenkov are American while Paul Whitehouse's vain Mikoyan  – there's a hilarious moment early on when he panics about Stalin's corpse creasing his suit –  is, I think, a Londoner.

Simon Russell Beale plays the monstrous head of the Secret Police Beria who gets his comeuppance and then some towards the end. Andrea Riseborough is Stalin's daughter and Rupert Friend his son. My favourite bit was probably when Friend spits and the phlegm lands in his own hair. But maybe that's just me, I like farce. I also laughed when someone hit their head on a fire bucket and knocked themselves out.

The appearance of Michael Palin as Molotov adds an echo of Monty Python to proceedings that are already pretty surreal, yet amazingly this is a true story. It starts with a classical music concert being broadcast that has to be performed all over again immediately when Stalin requests a recording and it hasn't been taped. The radio producer played by Paddy Considine fears he – and probably the entire orchestra – will be executed if they don't deliver the musical goods.

As for the rest of this film there is no question. It definitely delivers.

The Death Of Stalin is out now.

 

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