I loved this film start to finish. All the actors are great as always but for me Jason Isaacs was a stitch. He was both a terrifying general and felt natural as one of the lads. His character was rambunctious and hilarious. He has some good punchlines, pun intended. I don’t know if I have a new found love for Isaacs because of Star Trek Discovery and his role in that but he is the highlight of the movie for me anyway.
Then we have Jeffrey Tambor who is a superb talent and in my opinion a national treasure. He doesn’t shine so much in this film but this is because everyone in this film is a legend in their own right and to combine them in this format. An ensemble that gels this well and compliments each other the way this one does is extremely hard to come by and Tambor is perfect as the snivelling second-in-command.
The laughs are high and plentiful but the tension is just as high if not higher. It is made abundantly clear from the start of this dark humoured film that anyone is on the chopping block in the U.S.S.R. depicted in the film, and everyone knows they are one bad joke or muffled laugh away from “BANG! See ya later”. This coupled with Simon Russell Beale as Spymaster Beria, who arranges deaths and tortures people for Stalin and later for himself. It really enforces the high risk scenario that the characters find themselves in and the tension enhances the jokes when they are delivered.
Steve Buscemi and Michael Palin are veterans of comedy acting and this shows throughout this film they are both sympathetic characters but they are still just as underhanded and afraid as everyone else one is dedicated to themselves and the other to Stalin’s ideals. Every single character is out for blood so they can ensure none of theirs is spilled.
This film has a unique way of telling the serious story of the tragedy during the life and death of Stalin. It does this by injecting incompetence into the characters for comedic effect but also to illustrate the real fear the people had under Stalin’s tyrannical rule. One particular scene where the Stalin falls in his room the guards outside elect not to go in because it could result in them being killed. This scene perfectly shows the tension and comedy all at once and it is also very amusing.
This is a film that is worth a watch be it on the big screen or not, if you enjoy dark humour this film will be right up your alley.