Moscow, 1953. After being in power for nearly thirty years, Soviet dictator Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) takes ill and quickly dies. Now the members of the Council of Ministers scramble for power.
In early-1953 Moscow, under the Great Terror's heavy cloak of state paranoia, the ever-watchful Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, collapses, unexpectedly, of a brain haemorrhage. As a result, when someone discovers his body the following morning, a frenetic surge of raw panic starts spreading like a virus amongst the senior members of the Council of Ministers, as they scramble to maintain order, weed out the competition, and, ultimately, take power. But, in the middle of a gut-wrenching roller-coaster of incessant plotting, tireless machinations, and frail allegiances, absolutely no one is safe; not even the feared chief of the secret police, Lavrenti Beria. In the end, who will prevail after the death of Stalin?Written by
When the Politburo first discovers Stalin's comatose body the morning after his stroke and move him to his bed, they briefly allude to how they "got rid of the good doctors in Moscow." It's a reference to the Doctors' Plot, a campaign in 1952 and 1953 that accused doctors of Jewish ancestry of conspiring to assassinate Soviet leaders. See more »
Malenkov did not become General Secretary of the Communist Party when Stalin died. He did, however, become Premier of the Soviet Union. The Soviet leadership was clearly in flux, and Malenkov never had the status of obvious successor to Stalin that the movie implies. He did not chair the Politburo meeting after Stalin died; Khrushchev did. See more »
Black-and-white photographs of the main characters appear over the end credits, but various figures are airbrushed out, have their faces defaced, or have other people superimposed over them, as per Soviet photos of Trotsky and purge victims. See more »
What makes this film special is its outstanding ensemble of character actors. The committee room scenes in particular are a riot of jockeying for position, snide remarks and politicking of the highest, or should that be lowest, order. Performers of this calibre could bring even the dullest script to life, but it so happens they have excellent material to work with here, and they rise to it like the thoroughbreds they are.
British theatregoers will be familiar with names that are probably not at all known elsewhere: Dermot Crowley, Paul Chahidi and Karl Johnson are hugely respected in the UK for their distinguished careers on stage. Topping the lot is Simon Russell Beale, the current king of British classical acting, at last finding a film role that gives him an opportunity to show what he can do. He and Steve Buscemi are the central antagonists in THE DEATH OF STALIN, and it is a joy to watch them at each other's throats.
Michael Palin, Jeffrey Tambor, Jason Isaacs, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Paddy Considine, Tom Brooke...We are truly spoilt.
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