With secret police and informants everywhere, the inescapable reality of Moscow in 1953 wasn’t good. Living life under the totalitarian regime meant a world doused in rampant paranoia. If someone confided in a neighbour or made a throwaway comment in a public place, then in a flash they’d be carted off, imprisoned and possibly killed. So with that in mind we’ve got a film that translates the very real world of constant suspicion into a hilarious, albeit, dark comedy.
Modern day politics are mind bogglingly ridiculous. We've got a Prime Minister whose face is befitting of a Doctor Who villain and the majority of the Americans elected a President focused on a “mine’s bigger than yours” competition with Kim Jong-un. Despite these grim realities across the globe, Director Armando Iannucci chooses to stay away from the temptation of a modern day retelling and instead focuses on travelling back in time to remind us of one thing: politics has always been a joke.
It’s no spoiler to find out the The Death of Stalin centres on, y’know, the death of Stalin. Opening before the events of his demise in ‘53, the film finds a funny side to his fearful reign. An hilariously mundane opening sequence subverts scenes of soldiers working through those unfortunate to find themselves on a death list. For the most part, the film is constantly playing with this balance and it’s here that Iannucci is able to draw the comedy out from.
The comedy is high-calibre throughout. Once Stalin is out of the picture, the film shifts its focus to the remaining Presidium as they begin to scheme and plot their way to the top. Without the right cast The Death of Stalin would be almost impossible to pull off. Thankfully Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin and Jason Isaacs are able to tread the constant balance with ease. The chemistry between them works perfectly and with the added opportunity for each of them to play their part with any accent far from Russian, hearing the likes of Isaacs as Georgy Zhukov tell the story of how he knocked a bear out with one punch in a Yorkshire accent is just absurd in the best way possible.
Simply watching the trailer will demonstrate the chuckle-inducing dialogue the film offers, but there is a large amount of welcomed physical comedy too. On paper there might not seem room for it, but rest assured Iannucci gets it in there. The scenes in question come out of nowhere and are hilarious and verge on slapstick.
Armando Iannucci knows how to keep this film going. As soon as the pace threatens to slow down, Iannucci throws in another ridiculous character to carry the momentum. If you’re a fan of dry and physical humour then The Death of Stalin is undoubtedly a film you need to watch. It’s one to watch in the cinema as the film manages to get everyone in the audience sharing the laughs and that seems to be a rarity in today’s cinema going experiences.
Don't miss your chance to catch Armando Iannucci's latest. The Death of Stalin is showing from Friday 20 October, you can book your tickets here.