My mini-review of “The Death of Stalin.”

Short version: legitimately funny while at the same time noting just how gruesomely awful Soviet Communism was.  I don’t know if you need to see The Death of Stalin in theaters, but if you do you won’t be wasting your time.

Longer version: a remarkably good cast combined with a razor-sharp focus on the proper subject of its humor makes The Death of Stalin very watchable. Steve Buscemi in particular makes a remarkably good Khrushchev, who is not so much the hero of this film as he was the least-horrible person who is also in power. The movie makes that pretty clear, in fact.  Beria (Simon Russell Peale, and he’s also extremely good) made that explicitly clear as they dragged him off to be [SPOILER WARNING*] shot.

But you’re not really there to root for anybody.  You’re there to see a set of remarkably petty and self-centered men** be justifiably mocked for their horribleness, and Death of Stalin does not disappoint. The writing and jokes focus on that pettiness, rather than on cracking jokes about murder and rape, which is why it’s a comedy, and not necessarily a black comedy.  If you don’t want to see it in theaters, don’t worry: it’s worth a DVD rental.  But you can go see it in theaters, I think.

Moe Lane

*But surely everybody likely to read this already knows that Lavrentiy Beria was taken out and shot, soon after the death of Stalin.  I mean, I was there waiting for it to happen.  Anticipating it, in fact.  And I was not disappointed by the aesthetics of it all.

**Even General Zhukov, who stands in odd contrasted to the rest of the cast until you realize that he’s the only person in the movie besides Stalin who isn’t perfectly calibrated to work in an atmosphere of constant terror.


  • Aetius451AD says:

    I have not watched the previews of this one, but was planning on seeing it.

    They got Buscemi to play Krushchev? I think he could have played an amazing Beria.

    If you have never seen it, I thought Bob Hoskins did a pretty good job as Krushchev in Enemy at the Gates.

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