Review of 'The Death of Stalin'

the_death_of_stalin.jpg After having heard so much about this dark film I was looking forward to finally seeing it but, in the end, I was left disappointed.

It is early 1953 in Moscow with Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) leading the country with an iron fist. When he unexpectedly dies the members of the Soviet council, long out of touch with anything but politics, show an incredible inability to govern as they engage in petty squabbles over what to do next. Deputy General Secretary Georgy Malenkov (Jeffery Tambor) is forced to take over nominal control over the country but he is seen mostly as a puppet by the others on the council. Meanwhile Stalin's mentally unstable son Vasily (Rupert Friend) and overly emotional but selfish daughter Svetlana (Andrea Riseborough) show up to add a bit more chaos to the proceedings.

“The Death of Stalin” is a frightening view of the transition of power told with incredibly dark humour. Indeed, I found it difficult to get around the sheer terrifying implications of the power struggle unfolding in this film. I suppose this is the point: These silly people arguing while the world burns around them – Lives lost and thrown into turmoil as they struggle to selfishly grab what they can. I am not sure how true this is but I kind of suspect it might not be all that far from the truth of the real event.

The cast list is impressive including Michael Palin (a personal favourite both as an author and an actor) as the calm-natured Vyacheslav Molotov who was marked for death squad execution and Simon Russel Beale as N.K.V.D. Chief Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria the most devious of the lot. Generally a lot of action here is comedic moments such as the council picking up the body of Stalin, having to kneel in the piss and complaining at the weight of their great leader or making snide remarks to each other as they supposedly respectfully stand guard around the coffin with an aborted attempt by Steve Buscemi as Moscow Party Head Nikita Khrushchev to bizarrely trade places with Tambor's Malenkov, now leader of the country. It is such puerile humour that pervades this film.

This is a slow moving character study of a film featuring farce writ large that never really completely pulls you in. Frequently violent and incredibly dark this is quite a difficult film to watch yet you watch anyway to see what will happen next with these odd, unlikeable and inept people thrown into controlling the might of the Soviet empire. While quite original, I can't really say I liked it as far as being a watchable piece of entertainment.

Rating: “Average, but who wants to be average?”

Review Date: 2020-12-31

Directed by: Armando Iannucci

Studio: Quad Productions

Year: 2017

Length: 107 minutes

Genre: Melodrama