Film Review: The Death of Stalin

The man behind BBC show The Thick of It turns to creating political humour from one of the darkest points in history.


Armando Iannucci has made a name for himself in mastering the art of political satire. From shows like The Thick of It to films like In The Loop, Iannucci has definitely made hit films and TV shows mocking politics and the absurdity behind them. Now, he’s taken his abilities towards one of the darkest points in history – Russia, 1953. The era of Stalin’s terrifying reign in Russia. Based on the graphic novel of the same name, The Death of Stalin takes place over the last night when Stalin was still alive, but mostly the time after his death when his whole committee clashed and back-stabbed each other to be the next in line of his position.


This film features a magnificent cast who work incredibly well, with great chemistry. The comedy comes from an all-star cast playing as comrades of Stalin – featuring Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale and Michael Palin, the characters cause havoc as they were all in fear of what their choices would lead to, as well as the constant backstabbing from fellow committee members for the head title. The first scene involves Paddy Considine trying to re-do a concerto performance of Stalin after failing to record it the first time round. There are some moments of good comedy throughout this film.


There were creative choices for the cast to use their natural voice, despite the film being set in Russia. Iannucci stated in an interview that doing accents would just lead to the audience being drawn further away from the mise-en-scene, a similar problem that Red Sparrow had. Furthermore, it would allow less freedom for the cast to deliver their comedy properly. However, since the film is based on a dark period of history in Russia, the political satire is mixed with some really dark and horrific scenes based on true events which could result in the audience sitting through a pretty inconsistent tonal shift, especially with the ending.


Overall, The Death of Stalin has funny moments delivered by a strong cast of comedy legends who work together incredibly well. However, the constant changing tone of Iannucci’s comedy with the real and devastating events in Russia’s darkest moment in history may turn some people off it entirely. If you’re a fan of The Thick of It or In the Loop, or that type of political humour, and you don’t mind the massively harsh change of tone – you’ll like this flick.

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