The Death of Stalin review: a ripe setting for a truly killer cast

The inclusion of Michael Palin in Armando Iannucci’s film brings to mind the terrifying character the Monty Python legend played in Brazil, Terry Gilliam’s wonderful 1980s satire of Orwellian angst and banality of evil fuckery.

The ‘sit’ for this ‘com’ flows from the death of Mr Stalin in 1953, possibly the most feared man of all time, infamous for his mammoth body count and his daily habit of drawing up lists of people to be shot or sent to the gulag.

Iannucci has taken the template he honed to perfection in his political satires The Thick of It, In The Loop and Veep and applied it here to ‘real’ history. There’s also more than a touch of his other co-pro, Alan Partridge, though the horror is on a slightly grander scale.

Historically speaking, you might say the dossier has been sexed up but I totally wallowed in the thing like a pig in muck, all the way from the weaponized language to the Weekend at Bernie’s dead body LOLs.

The climate of fear that hangs in every scene is a ripe setting for a truly killer cast, Steve Buscemi at his best as Khrushchev, Jeffrey Tambor as the simpering Malenkov, Palin as Molotov, and Jason Isaacs who plays the shit out of General Zhukov, a belligerent bon vivant of epic proportions. Most terrifying of all is theatre actor Simon Russell Beale as Lavrentiy Beria.

It’s mostly a sausage sizzle save for the brilliant Andrea Riseborough as Stalin’s brittle daughter and Olga Kurylenko as pianist Maria Yudina.

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