The name Armando Iannucci may be one that is still unknown to most Americans, but just the briefest mention of his work will get people nodding their head in agreement that despite not remembering, or even mispronouncing his name, his is a towering genius. If you’ve ever watched the television shows Veep (2012 – current), The Thick of It (2005 – 2012), or its cinematic spin-off, In the Loop (2009) and hoped he would turn his gaze on post-Second World War Soviet Union, then you are in luck.
As the title suggests, The Death of Stalin depicts the chaos which resulted after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 and the panic that occurred amongst his hapless generals and advisers. Anyone acquainted with Iannucci's brand of satire will recognize plenty of trademarks here: including political satire that borders on slapstick, farce and a script that is peppered with plenty of swearing. Thankfully none of the cast have adopted comedic Russian accents and instead seem to stick with their natural American or British dialects, which may have derailed things too far into the realm of silliness.
Currently, most of what can be gauged from the trailer is that there will be plenty of hilarious one liners, but story details are sketchy right now. Such lines as, “I’m the peacemaker and I’ll fuck up anyone who gets in my way” and “I took Germany, I think I can take a flesh lump in a waistcoat” seem to be keeping with Iannucci's brand of humor, and they carry a lot of weight when delivered by actors as talented as Steve Buscemi and Jeffrey Tambor.
This will be Iannucci’s second feature after In the Loop, which took the characters from the television show The Thick of It, which was a satire on politics in Britain, and sent them to Washington, D.C to wade through the murky waters of American politics. He went on to create Veep and served as its show runner for four seasons before departing. One hopes that this will introduce actors such as Jason Isaacs and Paddy Considine, both of whom have hovered on the fringes of mainstream success without ever completely crossing over, to a whole new audience.
The Death of Stalin is due to be released October 20th in the UK and will presumably be looking for distribution deals for the rest of the world when it premieres at The Toronto International Film Festival in September. It also stars Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend, Michael Palin, Olga Kurylenko, and Simon Russell Beale.