The true story of the scramble for power over the Soviet
Union following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953.
The Death of Stalin (2017)
Directed by Armando Iannucci
Written by Armando Iannucci, David Schneider,
Ian Martin, Fabien Nury
Starring Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Simon Russell Beale, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs, Rupert Friend, Andrea Riseborough, Paddy Considine, Olga Kurylenko
Based on the graphic novel by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin
The Death of Stalin is a brilliant satirical retelling of the mad scramble for power that rippled throughout the Soviet Council of Ministers when dictator Joseph Stalin suddenly dropped dead after 30 years in power. This is a story that is devoid of humor, yet injecting it with Armando Iannucci's brand of political satire helped bring it to life in a way that making it a typical biopic never would've done. Props to the great cast of mostly comedic character actors for playing such dastardly historical villains with all the grace of an HBO sitcom. Not to mention the complete lack of any Russian accents, something that I think just adds to the movie's outlandish adaptation of the appointment of Stalin's successor.
Steve Buscemi plays Nikita Khrushchev, the eventual leader of the Soviet Union in the late 50's and early 60's. Here, he's a conniving, backstabbing cabinet minister who seeks the throne for himself, just like the rest of the ministers. I enjoyed Buscemi's performance, and another standout favorite of mine was Jason Isaacs as Field Marshal Zhukov, a hilariously arrogant military commander who says the most outlandish shit. Though the film is a satire, there are some moments that feel like real history, such as the arrest and execution of Minister Beria (Simon Russell Beale). It reminds audiences that this really did happen, and these people really were hateful monsters.
I love Armando Iannucci's satirical mind, and The Death of Stalin is another feather in his cap. It's funny as hell and captivating, using dark humor to underline the complete lack of loyalty and overabundance of hubris that Stalin's inner circle had in spades. They're all bad people and that's never in doubt. It's just fun to watch them act the way regular people would act if they found out their boss was dead and they had a chance to take over the company themselves, provided they take out the competition.