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Jason Isaacs in The Death of Stalin.

NICOLA DOVE

rating

4 out of 4 stars
  • The Death of Stalin
  • Opening March 16
  • Directed by Armando Iannucci
  • Written by Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin and Peter Fellows
  • Starring Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale
  • Classification 14A
  • 106 minutes

Armando Iannucci, known to North American audiences via Veep but also as the co-creator of Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge character on British TV, does a delightful takedown of absolutist regimes in this black comedy about Stalin’s toadies jockeying for power after the big man is felled by a stroke.

Most of us will know that Nikita Khrushchev (a clowning wise guy courtesy of Steve Buscemi) will somehow win his battle for power against the secret-police boss Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale creates a depraved bully). But getting there is suspenseful enough to make this the rare satire that never wears out its welcome, as the Keystone Cops try to find the ailing Stalin a doctor – Beria’s thugs have killed all the good ones – and then plan his state funeral.

There is one thing that power can’t stand, and that is to be mocked: The social importance of this topical romp should not be underestimated.

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