The Death Of Stalin

****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Death Of Stalin
"If you have ever laughed at the headmaster when he slips on an egg yoke this movie is for you"

Extracting the urine from the last Labour government (The Thick Of It) and The White House (Veep) before Trump, who doesn't need a satirist, being self taught in the art of the awful, is Armando Iannucci's thing.

What's "a thing" to a born-and-bred Glaswegian? Ask Billy Connolly. They share a talent for dissing authority. This time Iannucci's target is the USSR at a pivotal stage of its evolution.

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As the title suggests the demise of Uncle Joe is when chaos enters the room. Members of the politburo are at each other's throats. Leading the cadres of conspirators is a slimmed down Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), plotting like a pea in a pancake.

Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) is weak and Beria (Simon Russell Beale) brutal. Zhukov (Jason Isaacs) is narcissistic and Molotov (Michael Palin) seeks a quiet life (with dog). Stalin's grown up children - alcoholic Vasily (Rupert Friend) and feisty Svetlana (Andrea Riseborough) - are symbols of continuity to be wheeled out whenever appropriate.

No one is happy. No one is safe. No one knows what is going on, or where to hide. The communist ideal cut its throat after Trotsky was iced and its corpse lies buried in the memory of a nation.

Stalin's body is carried in a coffin on the shoulders of his scheming cohorts.

"He's heavy."

"Gold is heavy."

Khrushchev has the energy and determination to follow through. He doesn't wait to be asked. He plays the game having made up the rules. Beria has the brains. Like a man used to killing, hands red with blood, he believes power comes from the bullet and the blade. Unification and betrayal are one and the same.

Never trust a friend. Never have a friend.

The drama is intense and yet The Death Of Stalin is a comedy. If you have ever laughed at the headmaster when he slips on an egg yoke this movie is for you. The script unzips protocol, exposing the naked farce of political intrigue, with two fingers up the rump of Lenin's ghost.

Life begins in fear and ends in laughter. Is this not a perfect way to view the tragedy of human nature?

Reviewed on: 14 Oct 2017
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After Stalin dies farce and political intrigue (equally hilarious) ensues. Somehow the USSR survives. The rule of fear is superseded by a gang of fools

Director: Armando Iannucci

Writer: Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, Peter Fellows, based on the comic book by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Paddy Considine, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Olga Kurylenko, Richard Brake, Adrian McLoughlin, Gerard Lepowski Jonathan Aris, Paul Whitehouse, Paul Chahidi

Year: 2017

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, France

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