Synopsis: Multiple colorful characters vie for power in the vacuum left by Stalin’s sudden death.
• Steve Buscemi was disarmingly remarkable as the loud yet silent chess player Khrushchev.
• Probably closer to the true history than many would have dared admit.
• The Soviet Union was arguably rather absurdist in its time, as the film successfully used that as its darkly comedic fuel.
• Jeffrey Tambor’s personal issues were overshadowed by the fact that his character was a weak seat warmer in real life.
• The ending highlighting Khrushchev’s successor was haunting yet oddly comforting.
• There were no true heroes or villains.
• Those unfamiliar with the feeling-based structure of narrative history might not have been pleased with how the various events were portrayed.
• The predominantly British and American cast, with associated accents, can make the film feel more anti-Russian than than anti-Soviet.
Khrushchev’s rise to power was certainly an interesting moment in Soviet-Russian history. He most certainly wanted to make some changes to their pure Communist system, but there was no direct way of doing that when not in full control. As depicted in the film, everyone needed to go with the flow of politics to survive. Yet, loosing the strong governmental head allowed for the very factionalism that could lead to their deaths. These interregnums in Soviet society can only be seen as ironic times in an officially unified society. Such was the dark heart of The Death of Stalin. Looking back at the dark deeds that Khrushchev and his allies needed to enact for power and survival, the darkly humorous framing might be the most palpable way of understanding it.
Rotten Tomatoes — 96%