Adrian McLoughlin Steve Buscemi Jeffrey Tambor Michael Palin Simon Russell Beale
Paddy Considine Olga Kurylenko Andrea Riseborough Rupert Friend Jason Isaccs
This is a film that is likely to pass right over the heads of most Americans, whose knowledge of the history of Russia during the 1950’s is meager at best. In my own case, I was unable to catch the satire and the rolling out of gags and slapstick that so many critics, by their reviews, have obviously enjoyed. Curiously, instead, I was constantly reminded of the chaos reigning in our current U.S. government, which detracted majorly from the humor I might have enjoyed if I had seen the film three years ago. (Another time; another place. But not now!).
The Death of Stalin deals with the death of a ruthless leader (played by McLoughlin) who tortured, had shot, and sent to Siberia millions of innocent people. I guess it takes a special kind of British humor by co-writer/director Armando Iannucci to make it into a political satire that juxtaposes Stalin-era atrocities and comical bureaucratic dysfunction at his death. The production is originally based on a comic book, “The Death of Stalin”, by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin.
The filmmakers have chosen to allow the cast to speak in their usual accents, which range from regional British Isles to American (no feigning of Russian language), so the viewer unfamiliar with history and the characters has a lot to keep track of.
This is an outstanding cast, especially Steve Buscemi, who looks nothing like Kruschchev, yet is able to be convincing. Jeffrey Tambor (Malenkov), Michael Palin (Molotov), Simon Russell Beale (Lavrenti Beria) as head of the Russian secret police, Jacon Isaacs (Field Marshal Zhukov), Andrew Riseborough (Svetlana Stalin), and Rupert Friend (Vasily Stalin) all play their roles exactly as prescribed and lend generous entertainment.
British humor juxtaposes Stalin’s atrocities and comic dysfunction at his death among bureaucrats.
Grade: B By Donna R. Copeland