THE DEATH OF STALIN gets 8.5/10 Dick-tators

Directed by Armando Iannucci
Starring Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Paddy Considine


If you revel in finding hilarity in the truly wrong and laugh in the face of grim humour, boy have we got a treat for you. Death of Stalin offers up Monty Python-esque slapstick combined with razor sharp dialogue that slaps you in the face repeatedly with savage humour and leaves a mark you won’t soon forget.

Best known for contemporary political satire in Veep and In the Loop, director and co-writer Armando Iannucci stretches to historical absurdism in The Death of Stalin and reaches deep into the most twisted of humour to wring out some guilt-inducing belly laughter. While it errs on the side of crass and shocking at times, Iannucci nails Stalin to the wall in this brutal enactment that does exactly what it says on the box.

The script rolls along seamlessly as it details the dramatic imaginings of the events leading up to Stalin’s demise in one night, culminating in a grubby grab for power in his wake. Jeffrey Tambor is elite camp as Stalin’s deputy and natural successor, as his corset strings trail behind him in one memorable scene, and Steve Buscemi is in his element as the deadpan Khrushchev, played brilliantly and without a hint of Russian. Nowhere is an accent to be found, as all players utilise their natural dialects in the ultimate fuck you to the universality of totalitarianism.

Another standout is the self-aggrandising military leader Zhukoz, performed with consummate flair by the always wonderful Jason Isaacs. He indubitably lights up the screen with each entrance and demands your laughter.

The Death of Stalin is nothing short of a roll call of comedic genius, directed with the kind of savagery one has come to expect from Iannucci, and plays to your dark side throughout. Stalin’s atrocities as a ruler are almost glossed over in lieu of laughs.

There are certainly moments where, between gasping guffaws, the audience wonders if it is perhaps wrong to find so much glee in horror from a demonstrably monstrous and ruthless dictator, but the joy contained within feels itself like a moment of resistance in itself. And vive le resistance. Revel in it.