Director: Armando Iannucci Starring: Jeffrey Tambor, Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin Running Time: 107 minutes
For years with both The Thick of It and Veep, Armando Iannucci has brilliant and bitterly skewed the nature of politicians in the West, bumbling self-servingly from scandal to scandal, always better equipped at putting down each other than accomplishing anything on their own. Applying that style of satire to Soviet Russia seems like a recipe for great comedy, but the stakes are rather different in a political climate where no one is allowed to admit that scandals ever happened and putting down political rivals meant a few feet underground rather than a few creatively chosen swear words. Staging the aftermath of Josef Stalin’s death similarly to the events of an episode of one of those programmes results in a black comedy that’s frequently very funny, but the satire here has a somber note too. That the people in charge of a superpower could be as arrogant and incompetent as those shuffled off to The Thick of It‘s Department of Social Affairs and Citizenship has some fairly chilling implications. Thank Christ we don’t have to worry about anything like that these days.