The Death of Stalin is a 2017 film that tracks the fallout that comes in the wake of the death of a certain notable figure in Russian history. The film is directed and co-written by Armando Ionucci, creator of the acclaimed political satire series Veep. Ionucci has a knack for meshing the real with the ridiculous in a package that’ll offer plenty of laughs to anyone watching. And The Death of Stalin’s recent induction into the Netflix streaming catalogue has opened the film up to a lot of people, and considering it only got a relatively limited release in the U.S., as well as world events that have everything stuck inside looking for something to watch, you might want to consider adding this one to your watchlist.
The Death of Stalin is an excellent display of Ionucci’s ability to expose the silly parts of politics in an fantastical fashion. He does an incredible job of playing aspects of the corrupt Soviet government for laughs. He flips the supposedly vicious power ladder into a petty game of kiss-up. In one notable scene, formidable names like Nikita Kruschev and Georgy Malenkov, played by Steve Buscemi and Jeffrey Tambor respectively, two of the best contributions in this amazing acted film, goofily jog to try and be the first to console Stalin’s daughter, hoping to score political points in any way they can. The Death of Stalin is the best kind of comedy, one that addresses real world issues in a new and fun way. It doesn’t take a melodramatic slog to get people to think.
My only major gripe with this film is that I simply wish it went a little further. Considering how notorious this era in history is, as well as the undeniable similarities between then and now, I wish Ianucci made a greater attempt to establish a real world connection. But even if he was trying to make more of a contained story, the scope of the narrative is incredibly small. For a movie so moderately paced, I wish that it covered more ground.
And I totally understand why they would forgo Russian accents or language (I wouldn’t mind it, but most would, and the jokes wouldn’t land as well), the blunt American and English accents and overall western atmosphere feel out of place in this Russian setting, often making me forget that this is a historical piece. And lines like “kiss my Russian a**” end up feeling slightly corny and forced.
But as a simple comedy, The Death of Stalin excels. If you like oddball, quirky comedies or farce films with a dash of social commentary, you’re going to love this. And, hey, let’s be honest, most people don’t have much else better to do right now. So give this film a shot!