Writers: Armando Ianucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin, Peter Fellows
DOP: Zac Nicholson
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambour, Michael Palin, Paddy Considine
Follows the Soviet dictator's last days and depicts the chaos of the regime after his death.
I had recently watched the BBC series on Cold War and thus was familiar with most of the names and their fates in this film. Not having any idea will also work because you won't know who will come on top at the end. Beria (Beale), the torture minister/NKVD head, was the one to take all the initiatives immediately after Stalin's death. He cuts off Moscow from rest of Russia and hand it to NKVD instead of the red army. The politburo is still coping with Stalin's absence and Khrushchev (Buscemi) starts to exert pressure gradually on the acting successor, Malenkov (Tambor), by influencing the likes of Molotov (Palin). The chief of the red army, Zhukov (Jason Isaacs), also makes a grand entry with his zillion medals in the second half of the film.
The first half of the film works pretty much like an absurd comedy but many of the things that is shown actually happened. The guards manning Stalin's bedroom don't check up on him after hearing him collapse because there is a Stalin diktat refraining anyone from disturbing him while sleeping. Central committee has to discuss before calling up on a doctor, a hard task considering that the good ones have been already sent to the Gulags. A respirator from USA was available but wasn't used because of fear of how will Stalin respond if he recovers. The events shown in the film are compressed to happen over by the time of Stalin's funeral when in real life it happened over a period of one year. The second half of the film is much more darker, culminating with Khrushchev becoming more like the Buscemi we know.
It is a great watch overall and one of the best from last year. The film is an adaptation of a French graphic novel. Political incompetence is familiar area for Ianucci. Thankfully, he doesn't use fake Russian accents in the film and each of the actors uses their own English accent, which makes sense as Soviet Union was pretty big in size. Some of the outdoor scenes have a cheap feel because of budgetary constraints but it kind of works because that is how it is in those shitty History Channel documentaries. The film has been banned in Russia.
PS: Modi ministers will relate a lot to it if they watch this film.