This film by director, producer, writer and political satirist Armando Iannucci (famous for bringing us such spoof documentaries as On the Hour and The Day Today, with Chris Morris that also, spawned a Sports Journalist called Alan Partridge who went on to bigger things!) produced a labour of love and a very entertaining take on Joseph Stalin’s reign as one of the most hideous despot’s in history.

Croydon Guardian:
Dead Stalin and his nervous cabinet

Which leads me on to comment that this film is a difficult one to review.

On the one hand, it’s a very controversial subject matter where have Joseph Stalin who was responsible for organising hit lists on people he didn’t like and would send his soldiers out on random executions. However, the lists could be changed on a whim depending who had upset him that morning.

On the other hand, the film is also laugh out loud funny. You feel a sense of guilt for wanting to smile but then the film also reminds the audience of the absurdity of what took place during the mid-1950’s.

Croydon Guardian:
Steve Buscemi (Khruschev), Jason Isaacs (Zhukov)

The other genius move by Iannucci was to give all the main characters UK and US regional dialects. We have a cockney Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) who spreads paranoia amongst all the country. This is especially noticeable with Stalin’s cabinet who sycophantically laugh and grovel at all his jokes and at the same time have to choose their words very carefully in conversation just in case they end up on the list. Nobody in the cabinet trusts anybody and much backstabbing occurs.

Early in the movie Stalin suffers a fatal heart attack which shifts the balance of power but the paranoia remains, which forms the basis of the storyline from then on.

Croydon Guardian:

Iannucci has put together a terrific cast of who’s who of comedy greats and straight actors. From the US we have the great Steve Buscemi who steals the show as a twitchy and nervous Khruschev. Plus fellow countryman Jefferey Tambor as Malenkov who is a bumbling bag of nerves who nominates himself as next in line to Stalin but the rest of the cabinet pull the strings. Michael Palin is excellent (as usual) playing Molotov and adds a pythonesque element to the madness.

Paul Whitehouse is Mikoyan also with a cockney twang. Then there is Andrea Riseborough as Stalins daughter Svetlana and Rupert Friend as her drunken stupid brother Vasily. The most frightening member of the cabinet is Lavrentiy Beria head of Soviet security (Simon Russell Beale), an out and out monster who revels in his position of personally torturing, raping and murdering his captives for the fun of it.

Croydon Guardian:

Then there is Jason Isaacs (who seems to be in everything at the moment) and puts on a great comic turn as Georgy Zhukov, the head of the Russian Army who has a great Northern accent and is a law unto himself. Also, look out for a great opening scene with a brilliant turn by Paddy Considine as a terrified recording manager, which sets the comedy tone.

It’s everyman for himself as policies bounce back and forward and all hangs on whoever can be a better liar than everyone else and stitch up a fall guy.

Croydon Guardian:

A very clever and hilarious film which was made before there was ever a President Trump and before Brexit.

A Foker On Film 4 out of 5 stars.

In cinemas now