At a time when any anxious newsreader might wonder if the incipient authoritarianism around the globe might be too bumbling and incompetent to throw us into a dark age, here comes a film about how you can fall ass backwards into dystopia. It's not nearly the film it could have been given the talent involved—it lacks the density of wit of Iannucci's best work, and the final pivot deserves much more substantive satire.
One of the best political comedies ever this side of Lubitsch's To Be or Not To Be. A triumvirate including Buscemi (forget Fargo and The Sopranos - this is his highest high height), Tambor and Palin was a quite unlikely trio. It just got real: thankfully so. Beria is the most disgusting evil-doer I've seen on film. A film that points out a real-life mass serial-rapist in a #MeToo era> wish he'd died s l o w l y.
What impresses the most is how this comedy is as funny as it is bone chilling. Iannucci doesn’t pull any punches in the depiction of the brutality towards an oppressed people, and as the body count increases and the power shifts from Khrushchev to Beria and back, there’s a sense of looming threat, which is often undercut by Iannucci’s deliciously sardonic dialog.
Iannucci offers us an enjoyable, revisionist comic gem with this tale of jousting for power while Stalin's corpse has not even had time to turn cold. Exceptional casting make this one special with some wonderful turns especially Buscemi, Tambor and Beale.
A farce with its lighthearted-buffoonery characterizations, but a serious satire in its deconstructions of political power struggles. The Death of Stalin is nearly-always funny. Its only problem is its lack of emotional and dramatic stakes, due to its uneven character's end goal only being who's the future ruler of the Soviet Union, something that it neither makes the viewer complacent or adverse to stake wise.
To be sure: THE DEATH OF STALIN is operating in the same register as IN THE LOOP (the only Iannucci I've seen), but operates at another level of comedy both because of farcical anachronism and shockingly outsized irreverence. On a number of fronts: this thing could not be more timely. Hey, it may not be KHRUSTALYOV, MY CAR!, but it is definitely as close as 2018 is gonna come to giving us a Luciferian Lubitsch.
What's with all the 5-star ratings these days for films to find out they are anything but? Beyond all the amusingly farcical shenanigans of Stalin's cabinet, it's the bottom line implicit Kruschev apologetics that are most problematic. Another film with acting heavyweights safeguarding establishment ethics and espousing a gradualist 'moderate' position. Iannucci is a good director, but his politics are wonky at best.