The Death of Stalin (2017)

death of stalin poster 2017 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting : 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Fun, smart comedy

Could have pushed it further

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Death of Stalin

Studio:  Quad Productions

Genre(s):  Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):  September 8, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)/March 9, 2018 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R

death of stalin jeffrey tambor

I choose you, Pikachu!!!

Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) rules the Soviet Union with an iron fist.  When he suddenly dies, a power struggle erupts between his cabinet and Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) finds himself in a head-to-head battle with Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) as Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) is seen as the rightful leader.  As Stalin’s funeral rapidly approaches, Beria and Khrushchev vie for power and face threats from Stalin’s children Vasily (Rupert Friend) and Svetlana (Andrea Riseborough) while trying to woo the Field Marshal of the military Georgy Zhukov (Jason Isaacs) to their side…there can only be one leader!

Directed by Armando Iannucci, The Death of Stalin is a political comedy-drama satire.  The film adapts the 2010 graphic novel La Mort de Staline by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin.  The film was released to critical acclaim but was banned in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

I honestly don’t know much about Russian or Soviet history and what I do know is rather basic.  I hate going into a “historical” movie with little knowledge since events could be presented as “the truth”.  The Death of Stalin takes some of the basic framework of what happened after Stalin’s death, but the comedy is what rises from the story…and not necessarily the history.

death of stalin cast

So…who’s in charge?

Iannucci has already stated not to take the story as history though it does have a lot history to it.  It is helpful to know some of the basic players in the game even though the exact roles aren’t necessarily accurate…but even with minimal knowledge, the story still plays out.  It sets up a great power struggle where you see wheedling and wheeling for control…oh yeah, and Stalin’s having a massive funeral.

While many movies have the actors adopt accents for their characters, The Death of Stalin does no such thing, and that only adds to the humor of the situation.  You have characters with accents from all over the world acting like they are from the same country and “comrades”, and the delivery of the dialogue is even funnier this way.  Buscemi and Beale are good as the leads while Tambor plays his typical bumbling character.  I wish that Isaacs’ character was a bit more involved in the script and the role of Stalin’s children might have been intertwined more thoroughly.

death of stalin jeffrey tambor steve buscemi

Is this a good time to talk?

The film looks good.  It had to work around the fact they couldn’t shoot in Russia but managed to get a very political feel to the sets and scenery.  It helps that the story plays out as more of a stage play and much of the dialogue can be limited to a few sets (with establishing shots).

The Death of Stalin is a rather quick and fun movie.  Don’t watch it to prepare for your Russian history test, but if you have some background, it might even be more amusing.  With a man unconscious on the carpet and people already arguing over who’s in charge, the movie manages to find the comedy in the darkness and fun follows.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response