‘The Death of Stalin’ is a cleverly written satire


Dermot Crowley, Paul Whitehouse, Steven Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor and Paul Chahidi in “The Death of Stalin.” IFC Films Photo

Through witty dialogue and great performances, “The Death of Stalin” is one of the best comedies in recent years.

Set in 1953, shortly after the death of Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin, his cronies begin a struggle for power as each member of Stalin’s personal counsel wants to the next leader of the Soviet Union. Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) constantly attempt to undermine each other to become the new leader, all while Stalin’s funeral plans must be arranged and a country must be kept in order.

“The Death of Stalin” is a clever and funny adaptation of a change in power in the Soviet Union. The performances from the actors and the witty dialogue make this rendition of history fun, entertaining and informative.

By playing roles in films such as “Reservoir Dogs” (1992), “Fargo” (1996) and now “The Death of Stalin,” Buscemi has shown that he has a vast range of playing both serious, sincere roles, as well as humorous roles.

Buscemi’s performance as Khrushchev is by far one of Buscemi’s better performances in recent years. The way he portrays Khrushchev through his violent bursts, clever comebacks and overall demeanor is possibly the best portrayal of a Soviet politician that an American actor could ever do.

Tambor’s character Georgy Malenkov is the obvious comedic relief in the film. Malenkov is a silly and socially oblivious character that always brought a genuine laugh from the audience. Tambor’s delivery and timing of his lines made Malenkov a well-rounded yet foolish character that never had a dull moment on screen.

Lastly, Beale’s portrayal of the power-hungry Lavrentiy Beria is nothing short of superb. Beria would cooperate with the central committee just as easily as he would betray them and possibly have them killed. This shows that Beria is a well-written and well-rounded character with distinct character traits that brought an entertaining and suspenseful appeal to the film.

One complaint I do have about the film is Rupert Friend’s performance of Vasily Stalin, Joseph Stalin’s son. Vasily had a lot of potential to become an absurdly funny and over-the-top character. However, that potential was never reached, leaving something to be desired out of Friend’s character.

With that said, there weren’t too many other shortcomings in the film.

The narrative of the film flowed very well and never felt dragged or rushed. The writing in the film was impeccable. It is the backbone of the cleverness of the characters, their lines, and the overall tone of the film.

The dialogue, especially the delivery, timing and execution of many of the one-liners in this film made this an exceptionally entertaining comedy.

“The Death of Stalin” is a well-written comedy with great performances and I look forward to watching it again, very soon.

Rating: 4/5

Angel Ortega can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_arts on Twitter.