REVIEW: The Death of Stalin is a hilarious yet terrifying portrayal of Russia’s darkest period of history

Armando Iannucci’s brilliant dark satire, The Death of Stalin, is a shocking, yet comical reminder of the horrors of the Soviet Union and the Joseph Stalin regime.

As the title suggests, The Death of Stalin centres around the demise of the God-like leader and the bizarre days that followed amongst the Soviet dignitaries that found themselves in charge of the regime, attempting to take authority without openly venturing from Stalin’s harsh methods.

In the hours following their leader’s death, Stalin’s close advisors are terrified to even admit out-loud that the man has passed on in case of the smallest chance that he could be alive and that admitting his death could be some as some form of regicide.

This very much is the tone of the film. It may be classed as a comedy and have plenty of hysterical moments in it, but there is absolutely a sense of huge fear and regardless of how accurate the movie may or not be based on actual events, this is certainly a bleak and terrifying section of Soviet history.

With an all-star line-up of Steve Buscemi, Jeffery Tambor, Michael Palin and a hatful of others, the movie is brilliantly cast with literally every character bringing something to the table.

Theatre actor Russell Beale is perfect as the evil secret police chief, Beria, who following Stalin’s death is looking to take charge with some scandalously dark plans for the union. But Buscemi’s nervy yet defiant Khrushchev is the one to stand in his way and here in lies the main conflict and tension throughout the movie.

Each character brings their own comical values to their roles, whether it be Tambor as the slightly vain but simple Malenkov or Paul Whitehouse’s dry humoured Mikoyan. Jason Isaacs also ought to be mentioned for his hilarious portrayal of the triumphant war-hero Zhukov, most notably because of his bulky Northern accent.

Iannucci won praise for his 2009 political satire, In The Loop, and The Death of Stalin very much follows a similar, foul-mouthed style of comedy and absurdity. He must be credited as he manages to balance the humorous element of the movie with what is such a dark and horror laden period in history.

 

 

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