In a world where Trump is President of the US, the UK government seems to be tearing itself in two and the whole world is going through a mid-life crisis, people have been numbed by sensationalised politics to the point where we don’t ask if this is real life anymore. But 1950’s Russia was a different story – there was so much fear running through the country that you’d be questioning your every move for fear of being killed at a moment’s notice. This very dark setting could make for a very dark film, but this absolute gem of a satirical comedy takes this historical time and will have you cackling.
The Death Of Stalin does exactly what it says on the tin, retells the moments of his passing and the power struggle that results from his comrades vying for the top job of General Secretary of the Soviet Union. What unfolds is basically chaos, with definite parallels to shows like W1A and The Thick Of Its (the director, Armando Iannucci, created the latter and it definitely shows!). It’s distinctly British too, with the majority of characters speaking in an English accent and using that sharp banter that we Brits are all too familiar with. In this Russian setting, it speaks volumes and turns what could have been a bland attempt at a comedy into a strikingly unique and hilarious take on this political event.
The story comes from a graphic novel of the same name, itself based in loosely true events, which in itself is brilliant. You can believe that these kinds of scenarios could have taken place, and the stellar A-List cast bring out the story incredibly. Michael Palin, Steve Buscemi, Andrea Riseborough and Jason Issacs are very notable for their portrayals, creating unexpected turns that made our entire theatre laugh continuously. Even throwaway lines in slightly more serious scenes were delivered perfectly that it felt like a fringe TV show, something missing in the age of huge blockbusters and independent artistic films. But in the same vein, it couldn’t have been a TV show – it deserves to be seen in a theatre with a packed audience to revel in the hilarity of the writing.
There’s no downfalls to this movie at all – you don’t really need to know much about the history of Russia or even the characters names. You can go along with the comedy of it and pick up what’s going on along the way. Scenes are filled with added comic gems that are sometimes missed, but that’s fine. Iannucci has packed the film so full with brilliant moments that you won’t miss much. It would have a huge release like other blockbusters, but this film needs to be top of your list when it comes out next week.