The Death of Stalin


Director: Armando Iannucci

Starring: Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Steve Buscemi, Rupert Friend, Jeffrey Tambor, Paddy Considine

Words: Christian Abbott

Armando Iannucci has once again proven that he is the master of contemporary political satire.
With his widely celebrated shows “The Thick of It” and “Veep”, as well as the film “In the Loop”, Iannucci dismantled the farce of government in the UK and US. Now he is looking to the East at one of the darkest points of 20th Century history, following the manic bewilderment and delusional workings of the elite inside the Kremlin in the hours and days after the death of their leader – Stalin.
Based on a French grahic novel by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin, it brings together comic eccentrics and Iannucci’s gut-punch of reality.

Iannucci has always brought intensity to his writing, having middle aged men sprinting down corridors, shouting every expletive known to man at each other like it’s the end of the world. He often sets up scenarios that continually become more nonsensical as they go on. It is only through his writing and direction that any of this works, and does so wonderfully. There is something darkly pleasurable about seeing a politician’s worlds collapse around them, a feeling only amplified by the weight of the entire Soviet Union in their unprepared and feverish hands.

The added bonus to all this is the outstanding cast, each member of this long list of talents bounces off each other perfectly. Often they blur the line between caricature and reality but it is that which makes them so memorable. They all cruise from disbelief, to finger pointing, to scheming against one another at such a speed you nearly experience whiplash.
Jeffrey Tambor’s performance as Georgy Malenkov is classic of Iannucci- the sort of limp, ineffectual, damp rag politician that is in way over his head. Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev also brings his usual charm, he works so well this this fast paced, snappy dialogue that it’s just perfect. Jason Isaacs’ was a personal favourite, his performance as Georgy Zhukov brings to mind every stereotypical Russian you can imagine. Each and every member of the cast though was a pleasure to watch, picking some out only undermines the brilliance of the others.

Some have said that this particular event is not a topic for satire, but with writing as sharp, fierce and venomous as this, it just proves that anything is open to comedy when done right. Iannucci continues to reveal the political world for the farce it is and once again it is a pleasure to see unfold before you, you’ll only wish you could see more.