The Death of Stalin ★★★½

The Death of Stalin isn’t just a dark comedy, it’s straight up bleak. This political satire centers around the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and the bumbling fools who plotted, schemed and maneuvered during this political vacuum. It’s loosely based on historical events but it veers into fiction for the sake of comedy. It’s a dry comedy and I mean dryyyy. Not martini dry. Like dusty coffin dry. Sahara desert dry. This is some subtle British humor for sure. If you’re a fan of writer/director Armando Iannucci’s previous work (Veep and In the Loop), then give this a try. But keep in mind that Veep is a lot broader and livelier than The Death of Stalin. This is the kind of comedy where you might not laugh at loud once during movie but in your head you’re enjoying it. This isn’t Super Troopers, Animal House or American Pie.
Iannucci superbly casts comedic talent such as Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin and Simon Russell Beale to play the Soviet ministers in 1953. Nobody is doing a Russian accent and some characters speak in British accents and others speak in American accents and there’s no explanation needed. It’s not about historical accuracy.
There’s a lot to love about The Death of Stalin. It’s smart, witty, beautifully shot and never drags. But it’s not perfect by any means. Some characters are wasted and sometimes the dry humor gets too dry. There’s not really a memorable laugh-out-loud moment, which is fine. But I suspect this is a film that I thoroughly enjoyed yet will fade in my memory pretty quickly.