THE LATE DIC­TA­TOR

Bul­lets, be­tray­als, belly laughs. Di­rec­tor Ar­mando Ian­nucci’s new satire has a very dark heart

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW - WORDS WILL LAWRENCE

White­hall and tack­led the White House, and now it’s the Krem­lin’s turn. In The Loop’s Ar­mando Ian­nucci, the cre­ator of

The Thick Of It and Veep, is re­turn­ing to the big screen with The Death Of Stalin. A blackly comic satire, it sifts through the po­lit­i­cal machi­na­tions that un­folded im­me­di­ately af­ter the Soviet dic­ta­tor popped his mur­der­ous clogs in 1953.

Loosely based on fact, the story takes Fa­bien Nury’s French graphic novel of the same name as its start­ing point. But Ian­nucci’s script — and di­rec­tion — ramps up the laughs even as the bod­ies amass. Po­ten­tial suc­ces­sors to Stalin, Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Be­ria (Si­mon Rus­sell Beale) and Malenkov (Jef­frey Tam­bor), all jockey for po­si­tion, each out-schem­ing the oth­ers.

“We’ve been very care­ful not to triv­i­alise his­tory,” says pro­ducer Kevin Loader. “But that doesn’t mean the pol­i­tics of suc­ces­sion don’t have far­ci­cal el­e­ments.” As his­tory at­tests, it’s Khrushchev who emerges tri­umphant, once war hero Mar­shal Zhukov di­rects his power against Be­ria. Ja­son Isaacs plays the medal-fes­tooned sol­dier. “All the politi­cians are ter­ri­fied of each other, but Zhukov’s not scared of any­body,” he stresses. “My Zhukov is hard as nails.”

As Isaacs re­lates, The Death Of Stalin com­bines “the real and the hi­lar­i­ous” in a telling that might not be en­tirely his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate. That’s Ian­nucci’s trade­mark, and he looks set for another sweary show­stop­per.

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