I didn't intend to write another capsule movie review today, but I saw The Death of Stalin yesterday, and couldn't not write something.
It’s tremendous. Directed and co-written by Armando Iannucci, who created HBO’s Veep and also did the terrifically funny political satire In the Loop (which got a WGA screenplay nomination, if you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and get the DVD.) The Death of Stalin is a combination of Duck Soup and Battleship Potemkin. It's very difficult to describe beyond that. The best I can do is that is centers on the time when Russia's Central Committee is dealing how to move the country on after the death of...oh, you know. The sensibility of the film is utterly uncommon and wonderful. Serious, goofball, down-to-earth, blunt, frenetic, crude, elegant, violent, hilarious and toss in a few more adjectives. The audience often had an odd reaction I've never seen in a film before -- throughout the film there were sequences that were an absolute hoot, and the audience began laughing but became silent: the dialogue is so smart and rapid-fire that people didn't want to miss what was being said. Great acting by everyone, but Steve Buscemi (as a young Nikita Krushchev of all people) and Simon Russell Beale, one of my dad's favorite British stage actors, are stand-out. And it's treat to see Michael Palin, who's quite good as Foreign Minister Molotov. The film is a a non-stop, swirling, operatic joy.
Here's the trailer. Needless-to-say, a film like this that is so much about pacing and stylish sensibility can't fully be condensed this way. But it does a solid job. In fact, I'll also post the "Red Band" trailer which is quite different, to give a more fully-rounded view.
And here's the "Red Band" trailer not intended for General Audiences, but grown-up folk. By the way, the character of Stalin is in the movie more than these trailers suggest. Not a LOT more (it's about after his death, after all), but he has a bunch of very funny scenes.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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