TIFF 2017: The Death of Stalin

Directed by Armando Iannucci

Starring Steve Buscemi, Rupert Friend, Jeffrey Tambor, Paddy Considine, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Palin

Courtesy of TIFF

BY Matthew RitchiePublished Sep 15, 2017

Michael Palin plays a small role in Veep creator Armando Iannucci's latest film, but that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's a fan of the political satirist.
Cut from the same cloth as some of Monty Python's best work, The Death of Stalin mixes historical events with dark humour to create an uproarious comedy that feels depressingly relevant in these uncertain times.
The Bill's Adrian McLoughlin plays Joseph Stalin, a double-crossing dictator with a cockney accent. In fact, The Death of Stalin is filled with British actors, from Rupert Friend to Paul Whitehouse, and a couple of acclaimed Americans too (Steve Buscemi and Jeffrey Tambor as Nikita Khrushchev and Georgy Malenkov, respectively), and none of them attempt to sound Russian; it's a smart move, giving the allegory an absurdist edge from the get-go.
When Stalin suffers a sudden haemorrhage, his comrades are quick to join his side; once he's dead, they're at each other's throats.
Thanks to ex-strategist Steve Bannon and his dirtbag White House buddies, it's hard not to draw parallels between America's current administration and the equally vindictive, violent and inept crew that controlled the Soviet Union from the late-50s onwards, and watching each character try — and fail — to claw their way to the top is cathartic.
Iannucci assembled an all-star cast for this one, and they hit each joke — whether it's as stupid as the placement of a lamp, or as perverse as every moment of Paddy Considine's short screentime (he plays a radio engineer forced to fill a concert hall with overweight commoners in an attempt to dampen the acoustics) — out of the park.
Gut-busting and insightful, The Death of Stalin is sure to be remembered as this generation's Dr. Strangelove.


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