The Death of Stalin is based on the novel La Mort de Staline. It has been brought to the screen by Scottish satirist Armando Iannucci. Iannucci is no stranger to political satire and has gained notoriety from productions like The Thick of it and In The Loop. This movie takes us to 1953 just before the passing away of Joseph Stalin. One of the most tyrannical dictators in the history of mankind, he had countless executed on his own personal order. After Stalin's death, the members of the Central Commission position themselves for power creating chaos in a layer cake of scheming and deceit.
Now the strap line for the marketing of the movie was “a Comedy of Terrors” and I could not agree more. The subject of the story is dark so turning it into a comedy was always going to be tricky. Thankfully, this absurd farcical movie handles it very well and does not gloss over the horrors in any way. There is a truly British style to the comedy. Reminiscent of the great Ealing Comedies of the 50's, the decision to not even try to get the actors to try and sound Russian instantly has an impact on the viewer. Stalin having a deep cockney accent, for instance, is just brilliant.
Along with the excellent screenplay, the cast is incredible with not a single member providing a weak performance. In fact, they carry their roles with such aplomb that the end result is close to being a masterpiece of cinematic comedy. A stand out is Steve Buscemi (Lean On Pete) playing Kruschev. Other huge names in the film include Michael Palin, Paul Whitehouse and Jeffrey Tambor from Arrested Development (review here). But throw in the likes of Jason Isaacs, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend and Andrea Riseborough and you have a real winning recipe.
This is a style of comedy that you will love or hate. If you like political satire this movie will exceed your expectations. As mentioned earlier this is a tough subject to make a comedy about. There are some pretty brutal scenes so be warned about that there is some strong violence.
Armando Iannucci handles this movie with great skill. It even has a real theatrical feel about it. In parts it is a little slow but it is better for that as some of the manic parts are a little overwhelming. If you are getting tired of comedies with little or no substance then you must watch The Death Of Stalin – a monstrous comedy about monstrous people.