Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

The Death of Stalin

The Death of Stalin
Adrian McLoughin, Olga Kuylenko, Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Isaacs and Michael Palin

Rated: R for language throughout, violence and some sexual references.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: March 23, 2018 Released by: IFC Films

Scottish writer/director Armando Iannucci (known for creating the hit Veep and In The Loop) sharply works off a regarded novel (and true characters for the first time) to level farcicality with fiendishness during the early Cold War in the Soviet Union where boorish megalomaniacal notoriety and fear reigned supreme.

The Death of Stalin might seem like a mean joke to some (and in its homeland it has been banned due to an 'extreme' nature and filmed mainly in Britain) but in managing culpability and folly a considerably dark, topical lampoon resonates with hilarity in a frantic effort to keep of with a politically chaotic impetus.

A sense of the overarching reach of the autocrat in 1953 is felt from the outset when he requests a recording of an orchestra's radio broadcast. It happens that nothing was produced, and the audience and musicians have to regenerate another show. When the conversion is finished and sent to Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) with a personal message tucked in by a mutinous pianist (Olga Kurylenko) actually triggers a stroke and impending demise.

Word of this puts his chief executive and political committee in a tizzy as a recent assorted inventory of folks to be remanded to the labor and prison camps is brought back to the fore. Nikita Khrushchev (an acridly sanctimonious Steve Buscemi) turns up in his pajamas before being covered by a suit.

Ministerial malformation is the order of business of his vying, underhanded successors for his stances and, finally, change. Wit is hardly in short supply with nary any Russian accents from fine feats (with accents ranging from U.S. to Cockney) offered by, among others, Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Isaacs, and (an old Monty Python favorite) Michael Palin.

The ego trips alongside astonishing dread may elicit reflection while often keeling over (like the ill-fated dominant despot) when the very implacable is just beyond the Kremlin. A bleak denouement may not come as a surprise to more than a few in "The Death of Stalin" where in Iannucci's capable hands all the laughter can't shed the bitter reality — one that even resonates a century later after not only the fall of a major leader but of its entire political system.

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The Death of Stalin        B+                        B+ 

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