“Jockeying for Position”
A Review of "The Death of Stalin” by Nathan H. Box
Director: Armando Iannucci, Writers: Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Starring: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor
Rating: 3 Stars, STREAM
“The Death of Stalin” follows the Soviet dictator’s last days and depicts the chaos of the regime after his death.
Here in the United States, the tyrannical rule of Joseph Stalin is a bit of a mystery. In many ways, the complete control and grip he held around the Soviet Union were just as infamous as that of Hitler. We tend to forget the countless number of Russians who died in World War II, Siberia, or elsewhere because without Stalin’s assistance the second World War wouldn’t have been won by the allies. We also look past what he did to his own people because the Cold War never escalated beyond espionage and political theatre.
“The Death of Stalin” attempts to have us laugh at this larger than life man, his wicked ways, and his untimely passing in one of the better dark comedies I have seen in a long time. When a tyrant dies, protocols go into effect and underlings begin jockeying for position. It is here that the communist version of “House of Cards” begins as Russia’s top leaders go overboard to display their affection for the dear leader and build themselves up to take his place. Their attempt to focus on the collective while also ensuring their own needs are met is the true irony of this film.
Of all those fighting for his seat at the table, none shines like Steve Buscemi. Like many of you, I have watched in awe for some time at the arc of his career. I have watched him play minor characters in Adam Sandler films to anchoring the wonderful and often overlooked “Boardwalk Empire.” With every role, he brings the best of himself and his portrayal in this film is no different.
In the end, this is a comedy that forces you to laugh at inappropriate times and question the ridiculousness of pageantry. My guess is that it won’t connect with a large group of the American movie-going public and that’s fine. For those of us looking for a good laugh and a quick history lesson, I recommend streaming this one as soon as it becomes available.
Be good to each other,
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