The Death of Stalin: a movie review by Tayla Rosen

March 25, 2018 by Tayla Rosen
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From director Armando Iannucci comes this comedy of cruelty…an avant-garde comic.

‘The Death of Stalin’ takes us through the eventful saga of Stalin’s final days, shadowing the laughable fight for control seen amongst his apprehensive subordinates.

Although almost ridiculously fabricated, this satire doesn’t seem to be a complete disregard of the truth, but more of a small push in a direction that gives the audience a sense of where this era may have gone.

Iannucci who wrote the script along with writers David Schneider and Ian Martin, does not hold back. The slapstick and witty on-liners portray an absurdly hilarious version of the historical event.

The film opens in March 1953 with a radio concert of one of Mozart’s pieces. When Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) orders a copy of the concert that was ultimately found not to have been recorded, the Russians are sent into a panic, showing the seemingly nonsensical fear towards the NKVD (interior ministry of the Soviet Union).

The film switches to Stalin’s house where he is seen having a ‘night in with the boys’ (his confederates), Lavrentiy Beria (Beale), Nikita Khrushchev (Buscemi), Georgy Malenkov (Tambor) and Vyacheslav Molotov (Palin). Stalin hands over his ‘list’ filled with execution orders and at some point during the early morning the men are allowed to go home.

When Stalin suffers a stroke and is found dying the next morning, shocked and confused everyone is deathly afraid of doing the wrong thing that no one dares to even call a doctor.

The race is on…the entire film outwardly focus’s on who would take Stalin’s place and head the Soviet Union.

Stalin’s confederates, or comparatively his ‘three stooges’ convey spectacle after spectacle in a mass of dialogic comic brilliance that cuts so close yet so far to the bone of this historical era.

Although ‘The Death of Stalin’ is definitely one for the books, the lack of, or more so extremely heightened accuracy perhaps gives rise to the idea that potential subtlety, instead of actuality of events could’ve been implied rather.

What could’ve been portrayed similarly to the allegorical novel ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell, similarly depicting aspects of the Stalinist era, may have seemed a little too far-fetched and offensive to keep all personnel unchanged.

However, Iannucci’s comic intelligence sure allows for waves of laughs, jolts and gasps throughout the entire film, that allow us to not necessarily ‘laugh off’ the occurrences, but laugh at their potential reality.

This films violent nature makes it suitable for more mature audiences.



Rating: 4/5

Director: Armando Iannucci

Cast: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Andrea Risenborough and Jeffrey Tambor

Screenplay: David Schneider and Ian Martin

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