The Death Of Stalin Review

The Death Of Stalin

Dying’s not very funny.

Trust me.

Thankfully, no-one told Armando Iannucci, whose hilarious almost true story The Death Of Stalin is a laugh riot.

The year is 1950-something and comrade Josef has been riding roughshod over the Russian people for decades now.

A simple word or look out of place and you could find your name on one of Stalin’s list, and he won’t be checking it twice.

There’d be no point – you’d be dead by the morning.

In this culture and climate of fear, Russia’s original iron man has developed a clique of yes men and arse kissers – all patiently waiting in line for their shot at the throne.

There’s Georgy Malenkov, assistant general secretary and next in line for the big job. Lavrentiy Beria, head of Russia’s secret police and a man with his own personal army. Nikita Krushchev, a man whose political ambitions won’t prevent him from putting a suit on over his pyjamas. General Georgy Zhukov, the red army’s biggest cheese and someone who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty.

And last, but not least, is Stalin’s son Vasily, who most definitely hasn’t just killed Russia’s national ice hockey team and replaced them with a bunch of amateurs who don’t know what the puck is going on.

So when – spoiler alert – Stalin gets quite ill, it sets in motion a desperate scramble amongst his inner circle to become Russia’s next iron man.

Though I doubt Tony Stark won’t be losing any sleep over these contenders.

From the comic genius behind The Thick Of It, The Death Of Stalin reminds us that even our current day tory back stabbers have nothing on their political comrades of the past.

Largely based on real events and historical figures, Iannucci has crafted another fast talking slice of party politics that embellishes soviet Russia’s less than glorious past.

The ensemble cast is terrific, with Steve Buscemi, Rupert Friend, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin and Jason Isaacs all taking it in turns to hog the comic limelight.

But as ever with an Iannucci production, it’s the script that’s the star of the show – and anyone familiar with his Malcolm Tucker shaped dialogue won’t be disappointed with this.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

October 2017