With all that’s going on in the World with Donald Trump becoming US President and the UK breaking away of the EU (first time I mentioned on its blog) the world is ripe for an Armando Iannucci political satire. However, Armando Iannucci decided not to take aim at Trump or Brexit (low hanging fruit I suppose) and went for Soviet Union, focusing on the clambering for power shortly following Stalin’s death in 1953.
The main players of this drama are famous names to those with an expanded knowledge of Russian history. With the exception of Stalin, Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) is the most well-known (he would eventually become the next leader of the Soviet Union) whilst other players include Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin), and Stalin’s children (played by Andrea Riseborough and Rupert Friend).
What works in the film’s favour is that the majority actors use their original accents (exceptions include Jason Issacs who adopts a broad Yorkshire accent). This works really well because the actors using their original non-Russian accents gives the film a bizarre surrealism that compliments the film’s satirical elements. It’s especially apparent when hearing Georgy Zhukov’s Yorkshire accent for the first time (Stalin’s East Laaaandan accent is also a surreal oddity) as it’s bizarre to hear such a broad Yorkshire accent coming out a Russian general’s mouth.
The performances across the board are superb, Jason Isaacs stands out with his broad Yorkshire accent and Simon Russell Beale oozes menace (whilst remaining darkly humorous) as Lavrentiy Beria. The film’s humour stems from Armando Iannucci quick dark wit, faultless performances and the idea that the politicians from one of the most brutal reigns in 20th European history are a bunch of blithering morons.
You can moan about the film’s dark comedy, but jokes about Stalin’s reign and his brutal use of the USSR’s secret police have been made since the days of Stalin himself, many of them originating from Russia itself.