4 1/2 Stars
IF the absurdity of modern day politics is not ridiculous enough for you, you are sure to delight in gallows humour of Director Armando Iannucci’s Death of Stalin.
Based very closely to the historical truth of Stalin’s brutal Russian reign, despite the players not even bothering to try for an accent, we are gifted a striking view of the terror and tyranny of the times, albeit with a cockney dry wit and quite a lot of expletives.
Moscow 1953 sees Stalin holding the motherland in his vice-like grip, while his cronies in command jostle amongst each other to please him in every effort to keep from becoming yet another name on the kill lists.
When Stalin suddenly suffers a massive stroke late one night after a demanding day of death and destruction, it is hours before anyone finds him face down in a puddle of his own body fluids.
But when he is eventually found barely hanging onto life, all the grovelling underlings crawl out of the woodwork to bicker and debate what to do as they huddle over his body.
As all the best doctors of the land have long ago been arrested and disposed of for fear they were trying to poison the General Secretary of the Communist party of the Soviet Union, they must scramble to scrape up whomever they can, to assist.
Meanwhile every single one of the comrades are already scheming and concocting their way to grab power and take over control.
If you are like me and struggle to follow the who’s who with all those tongue twisted Russian names, don’t worry, the cast is here to save you the trouble.
Steve Buscemi has dropped his jittery New Yorker norm and plays a cunning Nikita Khrushchev, the party head, and Simon Russell Beade is Lavrentiy Beria, the perfectly sinister secret police chief.
While there are many other characters in play (including Michael Palin of Monty Python royalty) these two are certainly the ones to watch.
The cracking one-liners come rapid fire, almost as ceaselessly as the bullets to the brains of the common folk.
The very raw humour set against the stark reality of the brutal regime swirling around in the background is both shocking and hilarious at once.
It’s hard to find fault with this film.
The only thing I would add is the way it leaves the viewer with a disquieting feeling of fear of history repeating itself.
And with the current climate of worldly power politics, it doesn’t seem too absurd to believe a similarly possible future could be on the cards.