watched | Death of Stalin

Armando Iannucci is the famed creator of Veep and British political satire show The Thick of It. He is back with a feature length wonder of wit and dark humour. The Death of Stalin depicts the final hours of Stalin’s tyrannical rule and sudden unexpected death which is followed by his top aides clambering around and jostling for keys to the now empty throne.

The film opens with a piano concerto broadcasting music of Mozart going out live on Radio Moscow. A telephone call is received by the stations director who is instructed to ring Stalin in precisely 17 minutes, when he does Stalin demands a recording of that evening’s concert. Panic ensues when the director realises the live performance
wasn’t in fact recorded. He rushes to keep the audience from leaving the building, exclaiming ‘Take your seats, don’t worry nobody is going to get killed, this is just a musical emergency’’. All the while at that exact moment dozens of people are being rounded up by the NKVD security forces for imprisonment or execution. The opening scene really highlights the general underlying theme of the movie which is fear.

Some truly grim and horrific elements of communist rule are portrayed in a comical way, which makes for an interesting watch, forcing a mix of emotions felt as the film endures. The fast but calm pace of the film is packed with brilliant one-line quips that cheer up rather ominous events.

One of Iannucci’s greatest talents as a writer is how he illustrates the sheer incompetence of those holding the reins of power. The films cast is an eclectic combination of American and British actors who play the role of Russians seamlessly well. Stalin’s deputy is played by Jeffrey Tambor who’s character comes across as not being terribly sharp, but delvers some of the best lines in the film. Khrushchev the 1 st Secretary of the Moscow Committee is played by Steve Buscemi, a wound-up power player who is enraged by being unanimously voted in-charge of all the funeral
arrangements where he is mockingly called the Minister for fixtures and fittings.

The Death of Stalin is a stunningly funny comedic depiction of some truly horrific, confusing and sad events. In theatres now and certainly worth a watch.

Directed by Armando Iannucci
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Simon Russell Beale, Olga Kurylenko, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Paul Whitehouse, Jason Isaacs

Rated R16