Movie Review: The Tomfoolery of Tyranny in The Death of Stalin

Reviewed By: Laura Ogden 

I was lucky enough this week to score tickets to the satirical political comedy The Death of Stalin by writer/director Armando Iannucci (of HBO’s Veep). If the casual gore and slapstick antics don’t turn you away, you’ll love it: the humor is blacker than Stalin’s mustache.

The movie has been banned in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, but luckily not Australia, where it has just been released as of 29 March 2018. If you’re a fan of Iannucci’s political comedy Veep, you’ll know exactly what to expect.


For any comic book fans out there, the film is based on a comic book of the same name written by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin, so check it out if you’re like me and like to read things before you see them on the big screen.

The actors’ performances are the best part of the film, and if you know your 1950’s Russian political figures, you’ll get a kick out of the portrayals: Jeffrey Tambour as bumbling, oblivious Georgy Malenkov; Steve Buscemi as the conniving Nikita Kruschev; Jason Isaacs as the fierce Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov; Rupert Friend as Stalin’s unstable son Vasily; the list goes on.

However, don’t expect full-blown historical accuracy. The plot is very “loosely based” on the events surrounding the death of the totalitarian dictator of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin, and the power struggle that ensues among the Soviet politicians in his inner circle.

For example, the actors didn’t use Russian accents for their roles, but were told to use their normal accents, to better naturalize their performances. (Personally, it didn’t bother me; the accents just made it more entertaining.)

In today’s political climate, we love to laugh at those in positions of power, because it helps us to deal with the seriousness of the situation at hand – and you’ll definitely find yourself laughing. Expect lots of plotting, scheming, and silliness.

Source: Key Art Film

While the comedy is the driving force of the film, I found the scenes with more dramatic action compelling and brutal enough to remind you of the seriousness of the situation without losing a laugh.

Armando Iannucci’s take on the grim history of the Soviet dictator is much the same as his directorial mould in HBO comedy “Veep” – full to the brim with quotable one-liners and ridiculous antics, poking fun at the not-so-secret immorality and incompetence of people in positions of power.

Behind the Scenes
Source: Key Art Films

Overall, I give “The Death of Stalin” 4 out of 5 stars for a hilarious premise that was successfully carried out with style by writer/director Armando Iannucci.

Iannucci’s choice to satirize this serious political moment in history sends a good message to those dealing with the current management crisis in America – no matter how tyrannical a leader is, he cannot stop people from laughing at him.

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