Complete A-Z list

Death of Stalin, The


Stars: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell-Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Jason Isaacs, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Richard Brake

Director: Armando Iannucci

A black farce about the grapple for power following the death of Stalin, portrayed as a grimy little cockney by Adrian McLoughlin. The film is occasionally brilliant, but too much of it just doesn't work.

Hovering over the soon-expired Stalin's corpse like vultures are key minister Kruschchev (Buscemi), Stalin's deputy Malenkov (Tambor, looking even more ghoulish in a wig), Bulganin (Paul Chahidi), chief of secret police Beria (Russell-Beale) and long-time foreign minister Molotov (Palin).

The haggling 'politburo' are naturally prepared to cut each other's throats even before the aggressive arrival of Marshal Zhukov, ripely overplayed by Isaacs; he's all in favour of a plan to get rid of the lethal Beria, who issues such commands as 'Kill her before him, but make sure he sees it'.

Throughout the film, people are casually shot, as the dark shades of the real events lurk behind the tomfoolery.

Although everyone here is pretty two-faced, performances are pitched at various levels, leading to some uncomfortable viewing. And somehow the whole thing has a hurried feel about it, like an extended, slightly under-rehearsed television sketch.

David Quinlan

France/UK/Belgium 2016. UK Distributor: entertainmentOne . Colour by Translux.
107 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 14 Oct 2017