So I saw this movie a while back in celebration of Landmark Theaters (a chain close to me that almost exclusively shows independent films) opening its doors to MoviePass.
SITWOL: Stalin is dead, leaving his swath of yes-men to pick up the pieces of Communist Russia.
The Death of Stalin is an uproarious pitch-dark comedy from start to finish. The film draws most of its comedy from just how insane Communist Russia was, and specifically under the reign of Joseph Stalin. It also draws a lot of comedy from Stalin’s pathetic, weasel-like, conniving henchmen played by Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, and Simon Russel Beale (among others).
The fact that a movie draws so much humor from the terrors of Russia under Joseph Stalin’s reign, and especially the fact that they do it so well, is something that I find both impressive and fascinating.
On top of that, for a movie that’s close to two hours, it is very steadily paced.
All of the performances were fantastic. I wouldn’t say that one specific performance shined brighter than the rest of them, but this is more of an ensemble film, so I think that was intentional. If I had to pick a favorite performance, it would probably be Jason Isaacs, who plays a Russian general that is absolutely out of his mind.
The camera work and music were also very exceptional and felt like they had purpose behind how they were used. In fact, I want to see this movie again just to see if it was more purposeful than what I caught on my first viewing.
And honestly, this movie is a wild ride that explores the insane depths of a socialistic dictatorship, while mocking it’s batshit depravity. It also mocks the hypocrisy of power-hungry political figures.
If there was one complaint I have about this movie, it’s that after a while, the whole experience felt very exhausting. Half of the movie, I was laughing in horror. The other half, I was just horrified. One could probably successfully accuse this movie of being one-noted. This did not personally bother me, but I’m sure it could bother some people.
On top of this, I would imagine your enjoyment of this movie will very largely depend on how much you enjoy dark humor. If that type of comedy is something you don’t enjoy, you will still probably laugh at some points, but you will likely not fully appreciate the experience.
Me, I just love well-executed humor in general, and The Death of Stalin is full of that… but yes, I very much enjoy dark humor as well.
Also, and this is just kind of a nitpick, but all of these Russian characters sound surprisingly British or American.
Anyway, I loved The Death of Stalin. I have very few critiques about it. It is very witty, disturbing, fascinating, and most importantly hilarious. If you love dark humor, then you would be doing an extreme disservice to yourself if you don’t see it. If you love historic films, you will probably love this movie because the events in it are apparently historically accurate. If you hate dark humor, you will probably not like The Death of Stalin.
For me, I would highly recommend this movie regardless. This is one of my favorite movies of the year so far, and I would love to see it again.