5 ideas about a movie: The Death of Stalin

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’m taking another break from the mainstream cinema, and reviewing a weird indie. This is The Death of Stalin.

IMDb summary: Follows the Soviet dictator’s last days and depicts the chaos of the regime after his death.

  1. Before going to see this film, I had some reservations because I knew that The Death of Stalin was a comedy and I didn’t think that anything relating to Stalin was a joking matter. That was probably because I was born and grew up in a region that directly suffered underneath his hand – Eastern Europe. He was responsible for the deaths of millions of people from that area, including a few hundred thousand people of my own nation. And while I’m not particularly patriotic and I don’t feel that loyal neither to my country nor to my nation, I do subscribe to the moral framework of the basic humanity.
  2. Nevertheless, I guess nowadays any story/event/concept is open for interpretation and reimagining. And this particular narrative has been reworked by quite a few creators. Produced for the international market, The Death of Stalin is a British made film, directed by a satirist Armando Iannucci (he created the TV show Veep), which’s script by the director himself, David Schneider, Ian Martin, and Peter Fellows, which was based on a French graphic novel by Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin, which was itself based on the historical events in the USSR. Also, not only is this film highly international, but its graphic novel roots technically make it into a comic book movie.
  3. My main worry about the film was its potential lack of ethics. I was worried that the movie would come across as making fun of the victims of the situation rather than its culprits. I’m glad to say that this was not the case. The Soviet politicians were the ones receiving all the satirized critique. They were portrayed as the walking real-life caricatures and that’s exactly who they were. The variety of accents that all of the actors employed sounded a bit strange, but I feel like they were employed deliberately, to have a stronger sense of a warped reality. One thing that annoyed me about the writing was the usage of the English swear words instead of the Russian ones. Again, this might have been a creative choice to enhance the cartoonishness of the film, but I think that the Russian swear words would have added some authenticity to the film and complimented the very accurate reproduction of the mise-en-scene (the red color palette and the tasteless pomposity).
  4. The Death of Stalin was also thematically rich and surprisingly contenporray. The film dealt with the ideas of the fake news, fabrication of truth and changing narratives – all of the things we should have left in the past but keep bringing into the future. The picture also did a good job of poking fun at the power struggle and the political plotting, showing these two developments in all their ridiculous glory. Lastly, while the movie was mostly focused on the irony/satire and the comedy of the situation, it also did not shy away from the terror/tragedy aspects of it and showed them quite explicitly.
  5. The Death of Stalin assembled a highly accomplished cast. Jeffrey Tambor (The Accountant), Steve BuscemiMichael PalinSimon Russell BealePaddy ConsidineAndrea Riseborough (Battle of the Sexes), Rupert Friend (Hitman: Agent 47), and Jason Isaacs (Star Trek: Discovery – really want to watch it), and the lone Eastern European actress in a film Olga Kurylenko (she is actually of both Russian and Ukranian ancestry but has a French citizenship).

In short, The Death of Stalin was an effective satirical reimagining that wasn’t that far from the truth.

Rate: 4.2/5

Trailer: The Death of Stalin trailer

Main-TDOS-UK-1sheet

Advertisements

Movie review: Hitman Agent 47

Movie reviews

Hello!

The final spy film of this summer – Hitman Agent 47 – has finally reached movie theaters, so let’s review it.

I have told you numerous times that the two contemporary spy movie franchises that I am a fan of are Mission Impossible and James Bond. I also love when action-spy-thrillers bring something unique to the table, like Kingsman The Secret Service and The Man from U.N.C.L.E did. Sadly, Hitman Agent 47 does not fit into any of these categories. It’s not a classic secret agent flick and not an unusual (in any way) motion picture. It’s just an okay (barely) action movie with a generic plot and questionable execution.

Hitman Agent 47 is the 2nd time that Fox is trying to launch a Hitman film franchise based on a successful series of video games. Their first try was in 2007 with actor Timothy Olyphant in the titular role. That film earned its budget back quite easily and actually quadrupled it. However, the studio was unsuccessful in making a sequel, so they decided to make a reboot instead. Interestingly, they kept the same screenwriter – Skip Woods – despite his quite terrible track record (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, A Good Day To Die Hard and Sabotage). I haven’t seen the original Hitman (and I don’t plan to watch it), but I can say one thing for sure – they should have picked a different screenwriter.

Writing

This movie literally consists of two types of scenes: exposition and action. And neither of them are executed properly (more on the action scenes in the Directing part of the review). Exposition is rushed and there are a number of scenes where nothing happens and a few character just sit and explain their backstory or the next move. However, we don’t need any explanation, since the plot is very predictable. The dialogues are also quite cringe-worthy. Lastly, characters’ intentions and backstories are missing from the film. I enjoy when movies keep some secrets and don’t over-explain everything, but when the audience knows nothing about the characters, it consequently does not care for them at all. Also, the twist of mixing the film’s hero with a villain should have worked, because it’s an interesting idea, but this movie only succeeded in mentioning the aforementioned idea and never really going anywhere with it.

Directing

Hitman Agent 47 is directed by Aleksander Bach and it’s his directorial debut. Some of his action scenes work well, but others look like they came from a video game and that’s not a compliment. There is way too much slow motion and way too much of quick/rapid cutting between scenes. I also don’t see why this movie needed to be rated R, because all that blood, which was splattered everywhere, didn’t add anything to the film. If this film was rated PG-13, maybe it would have earned a bit more and wouldn’t have been a total box office flop.

Shoot-out scenes were okay, but I was more impressed with the hand-to-hand combat scenes. However, the CGI was absolutely terrible. Again, it looked like a video game and I have seen video game’s graphics which are more realistic than this film’s effects.

Acting

Rupert Friend as Agent 47. Rupert was quite good as an emotional and cold-blooded assassin. Sadly, since he had no emotions, I, as a viewer, didn’t have any feelings towards him either. Also, the film never revealed who was he working for. Maybe you were supposed to know that from the game? 

Hannah Ware as Katia was the most interesting character to me. I only wish that they would have explained her physical and psychological enhancement more, but then the movie would have turned into a science fiction film and not a mindless action shoot out. This film really would have fared better, if the people, working behind the camera, would just have injected some intellect and smartness into it.

Zachary Quinto as John Smith. The most original name ever, right? Even though it’s just a nickname, they still could have come up with something better. Quinto’s involvement in this film was actually the thing that attracted me to this movie and the thing that ended up disappointing me the most. Also, it was weird seeing him with a quiff.

Ciarán Hinds as Dr. Litvenko was also an underdeveloped character. Litvenko was supposed to be the main reason for the film’s plot to happen, but he was just another unnecessary character in a film that didn’t need to be made. Also, during the movie, I was rocking my brain, because I couldn’t remember, where I have seen this actor before, and only when I checked his IMDb page, I’ve realized that he portrayed Mance Rayder on Game of Thrones and played Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome. Loved him in both of these projects, hated in this film.

Thomas Kretschmann as Le Clerq brought some diversity nationality wise. He is a German actor, who has starred in a few Hollywood movies as well as in a variety of German films. He is probably best known to English-speaking audiences for his most role of Baron von Strucker in MCU. He was good in the role of Le Clerq – a millionaire with bad intentions. The problem is – his role wasn’t good. Make what you will out of that.

All in all, Hitman Agent 47 was a poor action film with an uneven and predictable plot, boring characters and terrible visual effects. It had a few good moments, but these got lost in the overall terribleness of the film. I have lost all faith in movies inspired by video games going forward, but we will get a plethora of them in the next few years. Gaming community takes up a huge part of the Internet, so I don’t blame the studios for trying to turn the obsession of the masses into a profit. Personally, Need for Speed (review) is still my favorite film based on a video game. The review of the other this summer’s film inspired by a video game (a bunch of them, actually) is here – Pixels review.

Rate: 2/5

Trailer: Hitman Agent 47 trailer

Hitman-Agent-47-poster-2