The Death of Stalin is a period comedy that tells the story of the aftermath of the death of Russian dictator, Joseph Stalin.
The story begins at the studios of Radio Moscow where a Mozart concerto has just finished. Stalin calls and demands a recording which means that they have to start all over again. This opening sequence sets the scene well and shows how the Russian people were terrified of Stalin and lived in fear of his death squads. The film continues with his death and the power struggle that ensues amongst the high-ranking officials in Moscow. The story is based on true events, though those events took place over a matter of months, not days as it is in the film.
The performances by the lead actors is what really makes the film. Adrian McLoughlin briefly plays Joseph Stalin as a bit of an east-end thug, very Kray like. Michael Palin plays Vyacheslav Molotov, a noted diplomat who comes across as a bit weak but in reality is very manipulative. Jeffrey Tambor as Malenkov, Stalin’s weak-minded deputy and successor brings an incompetence to the role that is at times cringe worthy and also hilarious. Simon Russell Beale does a stellar job as the bad guy, Lavrentiy Beria. Also making appearances are Paul Whitehouse, Paddy Considine, Dermot Crowley, Richard Brake, Andrea Riseborough and Rupert Friend.
Two people stood out for me. Steve Buscemi as a very Americanised, Russian-Nucky Thompson Nikita Khrushchev, whilst Jason Isaacs plays General Georgy Zhukov as a brusque Yorkshireman type. Jason also had the best line in the film- “Did Coco Chanel take a shit on your head?”
If you like period comedy, or any of the actors in it, then go and see it. It’s well worth it and you’ll be laughing (sometimes inappropriately) from the outset.
Footnote: I saw the film at the Odeon Covent Garden.
I’ve not been to this cinema since it was an ABC. It’s a great little cinema with pleasant staff. Its also one of the nicer Odeons, as some that I have been to have fallen into disrepair or have been demolished (RIP Odeon Marble Arch).
There are a few classic posters on display as well as two quirky model hands. One belonging to Robert Carlyle and the other to Sir Michael Caine.
I must find out more about these at some point.
If you are in the West End and don’t want to deal with the mad crowds in Leicester Square, then take a ten-minute walk to the Odeon Covent Garden on Shaftesbury Avenue- you can’t go wrong!