‘The Death of Stalin’ Review: A Surprisingly Timely Political Farce

Veep series creator Armando Iannucci delivers another politically relevant satire with IFC Films’ The Death of Stalin, an R-rated comedy inspired by true events. The bizarre behind-the-scenes struggle for control immediately following the death of brutal dictator Joseph Stalin is the setting of writer-director Iannucci’s latest venture into the twisted world of politics and power.

Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin is set in Moscow in 1953 and focuses on the events surrounding the sudden passing of Stalin, focusing on the reactions of those seeking to advance their own positions. The knives are out and no one among the Russian elite is safe as different factions vie to fill the void in leadership. Honing their backstabbing abilities seems to be this group’s favorite form of exercise, along with targeting their enemies with biting one-liners.

Despite the fact The Death of Stalin has so many key figures to weave into the story, Iannucci and co-writers David Schneider and Ian Martin did an outstanding job of developing each individual character. Even with a swift 107-minute running time, we’re provided with enough information on their backstories and personalities to understand how they fit into this complex dance of power-hungry Russians. Alliances of opportunity form among the newly deceased Stalin’s Central Committee members and those fluid bonds provide plenty of hilarious moments in this surprisingly timely film.

Iannucci’s assembled a first-rate cast that includes Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jason Isaacs, Adrian McLoughlin, Michael Palin, Paddy Considine, Olga Kurylenko, and Andrea Riseborough. The approach to taking control by the colorful characters portrayed by the talented ensemble varies, and their intricate and complicated maneuverings are incredibly entertaining to watch unfold.

The Death of Stalin is comical look at an all too relatable group of crooked political figures. Even those turned off by the very thought of watching anything political at this point in time will find themselves caught up in this clever political farce.


MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, violence and some sexual references

Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes

Directed By: Armando Iannucci

The Death of Stalin Movie Review
Dermot Crowley as Kaganovich, Paul Whitehouse as Mikoyan, Steve Buscemi as Krushchev, Jeffrey Tambor as Malenkov, and Paul Chahidi as Bulganin in ‘The Death of Stalin’ (Photo by Nicola Dove, Courtesy of IFC Films)