In early-1953 Moscow, under the Great Terror’s heavy cloak of state paranoia, the ever-watchful Soviet leader, Iosif Stalin, collapses unexpectedly of a brain haemorrhage. As a result, when someone discovers his body the following morning, a frenetic surge of raw panic starts spreading like a virus among the senior members of the Council of Ministers, as they scramble to maintain order, weed out the competition, and ultimately take power. But in the middle of a gut-wrenching rollercoaster of incessant plotting, tireless machinations, and frail allegiances, absolutely no one is safe; not even the feared chief of the secret police, Lavrenti Beria. In the end, who will prevail after the death of Stalin?—Nick Riganas
Writer and director Armando Iannucci insisted on not having the characters speak with Russian accents, for two reasons: he thought it would take audiences out of the movie, and he did not want the actors and actresses to worry about their accents when improvising. In a promotional interview on BBC Radio 5 for the U.K. release, Iannucci stated that Russian journalists who had previewed this movie praised the decision.