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  • Writer's pictureGuy Jeffries

The Death of Stalin

Director: Armando Iannucci.

Starring: Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Isaacs, Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Andrea Riseborough, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Michael Palin.

This film just seemed to pop out of nowhere and there’s a good and impressive reason as to why and how. It’s a film that follows the strange but true events that came after the Death of the Russian tyrant leader, Stalin, back in 1953.

The story is based on a graphic novel written by Fabien Nury and drawn by Thierry Robin which was first, originally written as a screenplay and was first officially published way, way back in July of 2017. Yes, that’s right, the source material of this movie was released months prior to the film adaptation premiered in the beginning of September at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Putting the film aside for a moment, I can’t think of any other medium, comic book, novel or TV series that has spawned a literally instantaneous film adaptation. I can only assume director Iannucci was on board in the very early stages of development, probably having read the material way before it’s general release. He’s actually quoted in his review of the material "Within minutes of starting to read the graphic novel, I knew I wanted to make the movie version." But even with such a head start; to secure funding, studios, locations and of course an impressive stellar cast at such short notice is incredible, not forgetting all of the post-production and marketing!

It’s a risk, a massive risk and surely the pressure and time constraints would show in the quality of the final film but no! The film is absolutely brilliant and shows what’s capable when everyone involved has a true passion for the project, and that clearly shows throughout.

The story is gruesome, part tragedy and part comedy but what really makes this film doubly special is the script and the oddball performances. The story is strangely hilarious and may appear far fetched however, when author Nury was questioned about the story’s accuracy at the New York Comic Con back in last October, he said it all happened much to everyone’s shock and that he purposefully left unbelievable snippets out. And Iannucci’s version only differs in a little structure and character development which is totally understandable and expected but the core events of the film actually happened!

Stalin died in a somewhat awkward scenario which the story sheds a great deal of comical light on, and then it follows the power struggle among the remaining echelons with the future of the country; and the rest of the world hanging in the balance. All of this whilst opposing political parties and comrades of Stalin plan the tyrant’s state funeral.

This is probably going to be Tambor’s most significant role, only really recognising him from Meet Joe Black as I never watched Arrested Development. And it’s now my favourite role of Buscemi’s which really showcases his amazing talent as an actor, but it’s Isaacs’ outstanding and equally outrageous performance that steals the show, who’s character and acting just explodes and fills the cinema. The performances are assisted by the interesting choice to not use Russian accents and obviously Russian actors, which allowed the cast to expand on script and gave freedom for improv.

It’s a brilliantly written, quirky political satire that still gives a strong idea of what Stalin’s Russia was like. It’s funny where maybe it shouldn’t be as it does depict a bleak, tyrannical time in Russia. There’s even talk of this being banned in Russia which I think I understand, but it was so long ago. It’s a highly enjoyable film that’s a must see.

Running Time: 8

The Cast: 8

Performance: 9

Direction: 8

Story: 9

Script: 10

Creativity: 8

Soundtrack: 7

Job Description: 9

The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for the incredible turn around!

86% 9/10

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