The Death of Stalin (2017)
Directed by: Armando Ianucci
Written by: Armando Ianucci, David Schneider
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Jason Isaacs, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin, Olga Kurylenko, Pady Considine, Paul Whitehouse, Simon Russell Beale, Steve Buscemi
As the title suggests, the film is set at the time one of the USSR’s most despicable leaders finally bit the dust. Despite the fact the communist regime was truly horrific, this comic book based account of the oppressors demise manages to turn it in to one of the funniest British films in many years. Boasting an ensemble cast with the likes of Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Olga Kurylenko, Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough and Paul Whitehouse. The Death of Stalin has no lack of talent, and everyone gets their moment. Simon Russell Beale plays Lavrentiy Beria, perhaps the most conniving member of Stalin’s cabinet and is without a doubt the most covincing character in the film. He’s one of the most central characters and constantly at loggerheads with Kruschev as they try and one-up each other, and he’s probably the most disturbing character too, especially when it comes to his treatment of women. However, Jason Isaacs pretty much steals the show with his leader of the Red Army, Georgy Zhukov. Who if you closed your eyes while he’s talking, you could quite easily be in a working mens club in Warrington. The actors for the most part speak with there own accents, which is an inspired choice, as it only seems to highlight the absurdity of the whole thing. Steve Buscemi’s Kruschev could quite easily have been a Brooklyn wise-guy, and Stalin himself wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a South London market stall.
It seems silly to make a comedy about such a terrible time in the country’s history. Most of the characters were nasty peices of work, treating their citizens in the most appaling way, with a couple of scenes in the film reminding us of this, on top of the excellent poster tag line ‘A Comedy of Terrors’. The performances of the central cast are perhaps the most impressive of any film this year. Despite being a comedy, the roles are utterly convincing, even for a farce such as this. The plots to take power once Stalin has died are wonderfully ludicrous, deceptive and by all accounts actually happened, which makes the whole thing even more bemusing. Even if you’re not intersted in the political or historical aspect of The Death of Stalin, you’ll struggle to find a wittier film. It’s a sharp comedy and the fact it’s based on a comic book actually makes it the best comic book movie of the year, too. Carry on Comrade!