Review The Death of Stalin by Jonathan Evans

 

3 Stars3 / 5

 

This movies creators probably had the same thought that Stanley Kubrick had while making Dr. Strangelove. That though the basic facts are real and the subject, as well as the consequences are serious, when you say it out loud, it’s pretty funny.

The movie opens in 1953 where Russia has won the war and is securely under the control of Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) who is simultaneously adored and feared by the people. To be his enemy or even be considered to be one mean your name goes on a list and when your name goes on the list you get executed. One night while an orchestra is being performed Stalin phones up the venue and orders that he be sent a recording of the performance, being that it wasn’t being recorded the guests must be seated and the musicians must play again.

At his palace Stalin is having a boys night of food, drinks and cowboy movies. His company is Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin) and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russel Beale). All act more like workmates joining each-other at the local bar rather than officials that are there to run a country. At the end of the night the men go home, all quite drunk, to their wives and hoping that none of them has done anything to anger Stalin. During the night Stalin listens to the orchestra recording and stars convulsing then collapses. The next morning the maid finds him and so the real madness begins.

With his death it sends the men into a battle for both power and ego. They race and debate on who should takeover head office, who’ll be allowed to drive off first, one implements a policy that the other doesn’t like so they revoke it just out of spite despite the terrible repercussions.

Adding the the comedic element is the fact that nobody cares about the real life characters accents. Throughout the cast is plenty of American and British actors and they are all playing Russians and that doesn’t matter in the slightest, they speak how the actors speak.

While all their squabbling is reaching it’s heights in comes marching Georgy Zhukov. With an entire chest of medals, tolerating none of their juvenile behaviour and speaking up to no one. Jason Isaacs completely has fun with the character, sinking his teeth into the dialogue and taking a big bite out of whatever scene he’s in. One of the best parts of the movie.

This is a fun costume drama that embellishes on certain facts about what really happened and shows the pettiness that men can be capable of when the highest position of power is in-front of them they’ll sink to any depths. There is only one joke really, these men are petty, but they find enough variations that the movie is never a drag. There are  about three solid laughs to have in it, during the rest of the movie you will be smiling.

Jonathan Evans

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