SATURDAY, 10 MARCH – 7.30pm
THE DEATH OF STALIN
2017 | UK | Comedy-Drama-Satire | Directed by Armando Iannucci. Starring Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin, Paddy Considine, Simon Russell Beale, Andrea Riseborough, Jason Isaacs, Rupert Friend. 106 min. Rated 15.
From Danny Leigh’s ★★★★★ review in the Financial Times:
“Lord knows, you take your laughter where you find it these days. All the same, few of us would expect that to be in the Kremlin of 1953, with the secret police out making their nightly tour of Moscow, banging on doors with the latest list of counter-revolutionaries. Yet here the stage is set for a gaspingly funny high-wire comedy, The Death of Stalin, a historical snapshot of that moment and events thereafter. The director is Armando Iannucci, whose grasp of political barbarism was honed making The Thick of It. Of course, the worst his bumbling ministers and foul-mouthed spin-doctors were capable of was some way short of this. . . .
“With a default tone of grand absurdity and violent dread, we soon encounter the old moustachioed thug himself, played here by Adrian McLoughlin. The boss kicks back with his henchmen — the parade of yes-men including wisecracking Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), priggish deputy Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) and wide-eyed loyalist Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin). In a film of several masterstrokes, the first is the portrait of the inner circle as a crew of buffoons, the second the actors using all kinds of accents — Buscemi’s Khrushchev given a New Jersey rasp, Palin’s Molotov politely Home Counties — rather than stock Ryuissian. . . .
“But the title is no tease. Soon the beloved General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is prone and unresponsive on the floor of his dacha. Like all the best comic minds, Iannucci has no fear of slapstick. But the laughter (which will be loud) comes most often from the gulf between the pomp of the circumstance and the sheer smallness of the men within it. The key is that the film never sniggers. Monsters are monsters even when they’re idiots. Most monstrous of all is the rat king of secret policemen Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), the kind of psychopath for whom vast power is simply good cover.
“An audacious comedy of horrors, the film has the feel of a bad dream you find yourself not wanting to wake up from. A scream, indeed.”
“The film is uproariously funny but painfully close to the bone in a world where once again the lunatics have taken over the asylum.” – Lisa Mullen, Sight & Sound
“Adapting the absurdist graphic novel by Fabien Bury and Thierry Robin, Iannucci and his writing team have run off with history and made a delicious mockery of it, not least by handing the roles of Stalin’s headless-chicken cronies to a multinational cast whose range of incongruous accents – American, British, in one case a riotous South Yorkshire – only add to the fun.” – Tim Robey, The Telegraph ★★★★