A satirical masterpiece.
Iannucci never fails to deliver. He has made another piece of genius satire. This movie has everything, deception, stupid people doing stupid things, political games of deceit, and most importantly a hearty helping of laughter. There was rarely a moment where I wasn't amused by this band of politicians and their antics while striving for power. Even in the dramatic moments I couldn't help but chuckle in seeing how many stumbles it took for them to reach these scenes. Iannucci knows exactly how to balance comedy and drama to pitch-perfect results in this comedic masterpiece.
"The Death of Stalin" follows the Stalin's council directly after his death. What ensues is a power struggle between two of its members (Steve Buscemi and Simon Russel Beale, who are both incredible) and the political moves they take to try and outmaneuver each other. The concept is one ripe for drama, but on the flipside, these high stakes situations provide an incredible foundation for comedy to show how dumb some of these people are and that's exactly Iannucci does.
His script is damn near pitch perfect. He delivers a comedic experience while also retaining the tension that comes from the political game of cat and mouse. No line is wasted, every line either advanced the story or left me grabbing my side from laughing too hard. Not only that but he's able to balance the humor he brings with the inherent darkness of the situation. The fact that I was laughing at a man being shot in the head is a good sign. I don't want to spoil any of it but the story is also just handled with such energy and levity that I couldn't help but love this movie.
The other thing that astounded me about this film is how incredible these performances are. Everyone in the film is great, I'm not overexaggerating when I say that either. Jeffery Tambor plays the person who is to succeed Stalin with such idiocracy and earnestness. Andrea Riseborough and Rupert Fiend plag Stalin's children who are mourning in two very different ways. Riseborough spends much of the film pointlessly reminiscing as people are plotting all around her which often leads to a good many laughs. Fiend's character spends much of the film belligerently drunk as he fails to secure any power for himself in the new government.
But there are two standouts in this already stacked film in the forms of Steve Buscemi and Simon Russel Beale. Beale plays the Spymaster who's utterly conniving and whip-smart, he is a comedic and dramatic force that lights up the screen. Jason Isaac plays the commander of the Red Army with such confidence and masculinity that I was laughing at him almost every single time he was on screen. But it wouldn't be interesting if there was only one man holding all the cards in this political environment and that's where Buscemi's character comes in. Buscemi is the best performance in the film as he is so damn hilarious and scheming at the same time. Whenever Buscemi and Beale meet on screen it's like lightning in a bottle. They are the core of this film and they elevate this from something great to a masterpiece.
This is a movie about very smart people doing pretty idiotic things in situations that they make seem trivial when in reality an entire country is in the balance. In the same way, these situations play out so does the tone, going from dark to hilarious in a matter of seconds without every feeling jarring. That is the mark of a masterwork and that is what "The Death of Stalin" is. Go see "The Death of Stalin" and you'll end up experiencing some of the smartest and funniest political satire of the 21st century. [A]
Al Pacino Rating: