Death of Stalin – Comedy or Drama, Hard to Tell

Rating (4 out of 5)

Summary:  I rented “Death of Stalin” for a $0.99 on iTunes and what a pleasant surprise after my last dollar film fiasco with Mayhem.  I thoroughly enjoyed the mostly factual historical dramedy and would recommend to my father, son, and wife without fear of retribution. Not only did I enjoy the film, but “Death of Stalin” but the movie inspired me to read about the life of the characters portrayed on screen; dare I say, I learned something?

Plot:  Joseph Stalin becomes ill and eventual dies. His ministers frantically rush to secure power before the another committee member does and he executes you.  The story is based on true events.

What I Liked: The movie opens with a really engaging scene of a musical performance played live on the radio.  As the concert begins, the producer receives a call from Stalin himself.  The concert sets the mood for the whole movie and established the stressful of Stalinist Russia life.  Based on a Slate article reviewing the factual components of the movie, “Death of Stalin” holds mostly true to the actual events.

The events and horrors make for a marvelously dark comedy. For example, A couple of guards are standing duty outside of Stalin’s office.  They are told to stay there until the committee members can decide next steps.  The two guards ask if they can go to the bathroom.  The scenes inevitably force a smirk to appear on your face, until they are shot by the government to keep the illness/death quiet.   Woefully, these events did occur and the paradox of comedy and death made the movie tense, especially towards the end.

The maneuvering by each group to grab power was funny at first, but then you realized the stakes are life or death.  Each side attempts to curry favor with Stalin’s daughter.  Another example is when 3 of the committee members conduct a meeting in a car. They force the dog to bark so they can’t be overheard by spies.  You basically had 7 man-boys playing with the lives of millions, like a game of monopoly.

Often when I see Russia portrayed in films as dark and gloomy. The colors in “Death of Stalin” are vibrant and eye-catching, breathing life into the movie and animating the characters.

What I Didn’t Like:  I had watched the film about a week ago and had trouble articulating rating “Death of Stalin” a score of 4 versus a 5. Recently, it dawned on me; the movie reenacts of events on the big screen for a large audience. The production lacks an in-depth introspective into any one character to appreciate how the individual grows, develops, or changes. For example, Kruschev (Steve Buscemi) wants reform versus Beria (Simon Russell Beale) who sought only power.