The Death of Stalin is pretty self-explanatory in its title about its content – it follows the death of the infamous Communist dictator Joseph Stalin (Adrian Mcloughlin) in March 1953 and the subsequent power struggle for the position of General Secretary of the Communist Party of Russia and therefore the leader of the USSR; amongst those attempting to seize power for themselves include Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin) and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), all of whom try to navigate the difficult period following Stalin’s death and subsequent funeral whilst trying to decide who should lead the new era of the Soviet Union.
The incredible comedy of The Death of Stalin is assisted by a top notch cast, with many of them being some of the finest comedy actors of all time. Buscemi is always amazing in even the worst of films and he manages to bring his usual weasely spirit to the role of Khrushchev, which suits the continuously plotting nature of the character. Tambor is also hilarious as Malenkov, a somewhat dim-witted secretary who gives off an aura of not knowing what he’s doing and able to be more easily played by the rest of the cast – many of the biggest laughs of the film come from him. Beale and Palin both provide a good number of laughs as do Rupert Friend and Andrea Riseborough as Stalin’s rather immature children, but the standout of the film is Jason Isaacs as Red Army General Georgy Zhukov. With a broad Yorkshire accent and a gung-ho attitude despite not being quite the sharpest tool in the shed, Isaacs is a joy to watch as he commands bombast through Zhukov to hilarious results. Speaking of Yorkshire accents, it should be noted that none of the cast are putting on Russian accents which is frankly a bonus to the film – there’s no mucking around with awful sounding accents and many of the cast, including Buscemi and Palin, have wonderfully distinct voices so it’s great to hear them not disguise them with a bad accent – plus it adds to the absurd comedy vibe of the film.
The Death of Stalin is one of the funniest films of the year and is a testament to the skills of Armando Iannucci in creating wonderful politically infused comedy. He manages to take a regime as horrific as Stalin’s and spins it into an absolutely hilarious light, with his script overflowing with witty dialogue that is only made that much better by the sterling work of all of the cast. The fact that it manages to fire on all cylinders through nearly all of its 107 minute runtime shows just how great Iannucci is at creating these absurd scenarios based on real events and is thoroughly entertaining to watch all the way through.
The Death of Stalin – directed by Armando Iannucci, written by Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin and Peter Fellows, produced by Yann Zenou, Laurent Zeitoun, Nicolas Duval Adassovsky and Kevin Loader, starring Steve Buscemi, Simon Russel Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough and Jeffrey Tambor. A Main Journey/Quad Productions production, a Gaumont film