Sunday, 12 November 2017

The Death Of Stalin (15)

I've been a fan of Armando Iannucci for many years - for sharp political insight and satire there are few better.

From The Day Today to The Thick of it, he has become renowned for creating some of the best TV comedies of recent times.

Sadly, however, the long-form of his art - the movie or film, if you will - has proved something of a stumbling block.

With both In The Loop and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, a good start soon gave way to more drama than comedy.

Basically, the laughs dried up.

But word on the street had been good for The Death Of Stalin.

For a start the trailer actually made us laugh.

I know, I know, trailers can't always be trusted, but the vibe was good and the performances looked great.

And people I know - as in, have actually met in the human flesh - were full of praise for Stalin.

They were quite effusive on the subject.

So off we toddle...

...and again, as before, it starts well.

Famous faces come at you thick and fast as the cast delight in recreating the political intrigue of 1950s Russia.

And the laughs happen along at a fair lick too, as the inner circle panic and scramble for purchase after Stalin turns up his toes.

Sadly, however, the pace and humour can not be maintained and as the humour gets darker further into the film the laughs struggle to make it to the surface.

There's also an unfortunate scene concerning Beria's lascivious predilections which may have seemed tongue-in-cheek at the time but has now been overtaken by real-world events and just looks seriously misjudged.

But such niggles shouldn't detract from what is, overall, a very good film.

The cast - Simon Russell Beale, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Rupert Friend and Paddy Considine to name just a few - all deliver top-notch performances.

In fact, the whole cast is so good you almost forget Paul Whitehouse is running about the place being Paul Whitehouse.

The satire is sharp, and even when it stops being proper LOL ROFL stuff it still entertains.

But you can't get away from the fact the first half of the film feels very different to the second.

As the frantic pacing eases, so Stalin becomes more dramatic and serious, and you almost forget the bits you were chuckling about not 30 minutes earlier.

And that's a shame, because the laughs were good ones.

To be fair the time doesn't drag and the performances are all top notch from start to finish, it's just a shame that you come out from the cinema feeling like you've seen two very different films on the same subject.

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