Film review: The Death of Stalin is Armando Iannucci’s most hilarious work to date

It's not too late to watch The Death of Stalin at the cinema. Picture: MEGAN ALDOUS

It's not too late to watch The Death of Stalin at the cinema. Picture: MEGAN ALDOUS - Credit: Archant

With comedy programmes The Thick of it and Veep and feature length debut In The Loop, writer-director Armando Iannucci has long established himself as one of the finest political satirists working today.

With The Death of Stalin, he delivers his most bleakly hilarious work to date.

Based on the Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin graphic novel of the same name, the film focuses on the power struggles that ensued within Stalin’s presidium following the dictator’s death in 1953.

For all its dark, absurdist humour the real masterstroke of Iannucci’s film is when the director drops the comedy and instead focuses on the perilous stakes facing many of the film’s characters.

Iannucci and co-writers David Schneider, Ian Martin and Peter Fellows perfectly capture the rampant paranoia that had become so entrenched in Stalinist Russia, where fear infected every aspect of society.


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As with the director’s previous works, the comedy stems from the scheming and backstabbing of its central political figures, here brought beautifully to life by a uniformly excellent cast.

Simon Russell Beale is particularly impressive as the odious Lavrentiy Beria and Steve Buscemi delivers a wonderful performance as Nikita Khrushchev.

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Jason Isaacs also deserves praise. The actor’s abrasive, Yorkshire-accented General Zhukov all but steals the film’s final act.

Iannucci’s second feature is a dark, unsettling and deeply funny film. Political satire at its best.

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