The Death of Stalin (2017)

Armando Iannucci brings his immense talents in comedy and political satire to the Soviet Union in 1953 in “The Death of Stalin”, covering Stalin’s funeral and the jockeying for power amongst the politburo.

The tone of the film is an interesting thing, as it veers darker than The Thick of It and if anything plays things even straighter. The comedy naturally rises out of the absurdity of the writing, and the excellent performances. Those performances aren’t saddled to any imitated accents; the actors use their natural ones, or ones they thought suited to the tone of their characters (Jason Isaacs deploys a rough Yorkshire accent for his blunt, no-nonsense take on General Zhukov).

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The tone is more explicit about dark elements than The Thick of It, and of course it’s covering more dramatic series of events, and it’s interesting to see Iannucci ride the tone carefully enough to not just allude to but explicitly have things like Beria’s rape of children as plot points. The great Simon Russell Beale’s performance is a huge part, possibly the main part, of why these tricky issues of tone work in the film. Such a fantastic actor. The film feels authentic in the comedy arising from the character’s casual reactions to the horror around them (often of their own making). It’s a very strong, very funny step forward for Iannucci. Four tomatoes in a pocket, and an autopsy.

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