Film Review: Death and politics has never been so funny in "The Death of Stalin"
In a time of scandalous and turbulent political meltdown, satire thrives. It basks in ever-evolving wit and intelligence, like a snowball rolling down a hill, it accumulates size and power and eventually it could crush the houses of parliament.
World War Three seems to have been postponed, so now is as good a time as any for the political satire ‘The Death of Stalin’: Set in 1953, Stalin’s final days and death lead his successors and acquaintances to wrestle for political control of Russia, amidst a violent and pessimistic reformation.
Boasting a career-revitalizing cast in the likes of Monty Python’s Michael Palin and Steve Buscemi (whose been stuck in ‘Grown Ups’ and ‘Boss Baby’ hell for the past few years) under the guidance of Oscar and Emmy nominated director Armando Iannucci, the man behind the bitingly satirical ‘In The Loop’ and ‘Veep’, flaring his signature political humour.
‘The Death of Stalin’ beautifully and impressively balances grim history with subversive black comedy to a terrific effect. The pre-execution removal of a portrait with eyes that seem to follow you, or the rapid confusion due to whose Kill List is currently in effect hardly seem like viable comedic situations. The sequences of harrowing violence depicted in this film would be grotesque and frightful given any other medium, yet here the craftsmanship executes them as effective and hilarious punchlines.
The film's all-star cast are fantastic in their own rights, standout performances by Buscemi and Rupert Friend bring tears of joy and laughter in otherwise horrifically grim situations. Buscemi is at his best as the conniving and bohemian middle-man, Nikita Khrushchev, whilst Friend hits all the punchlines as the drunk and disgraced Vasily Stalin.
The costume and set design are flawlessly polished, a perfect emulation of the cold war-era. Unfortunately, this stylistic feat is sometimes belittled by irregular cinematography that attempts to emulate several clashing styles at once.
The Death of Stalin’s ridiculous premise draws sobering and foreboding parallels to today's political climate, reminding us that in twenty years time the likes of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un will most likely feature in a political satire to similar effect. The tomfoolery on display somehow seems frighteningly more fit for a modern-day House of Parliament than a comedians writing the room.
The film is a fantastic renegade biopic, it joyously cracks the right amount of comedic inaccuracies whilst maintaining the radiant themes, ideas, and realism needed for the historic portrayal, resulting in a far more entertaining version of reality. That said, not everyone's humour or historical knowledge will suit or appreciate the hilarious portrayals of such grim characters, scenarios, and history.
Buoyed by a solid script, worthwhile bending of the truth, and a fantastic cast, the film will keep you chuckling and forgetting about those horrific death statistics present on screen! The Death of Stalin allows us to laugh at a group of bumbling politicians attempting to keep order, without us turning on the news, or risk the outcome of nuclear war.