Certificate: 15

Running Time: 107 mins

Star Rating: 4/5

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GLASGOW-BORN writer-director Armando Iannucci continues to make hay from the grubby business of politics in The Death Of Stalin.

Set in 1953 Moscow, this delicious, razor-sharp satire builds on the giddy success of TV sitcoms The Thick Of It and Veep, and the Oscar-nominated 2009 film In The Loop, which brilliantly lampooned US and UK military intervention in the Middle East.

The script, co-written by David Schneider and Ian Martin, is polished to a dazzling lustre. Wisely, no-one attempts a cod-Soviet accent, which could be an unnecessary distraction from the high-tempo verbal ping pong.

Instead, we have a bewildering melting pot of English and American voices that reflect the escalating pandemonium following Stalin's inglorious demise. Bizarrely, Jason Isaacs chooses a Yorkshire burr, as thick and satisfying as freshly poured treacle, for his foul-mouthed and bullish Red Army general, who prefers to make his point with the pull of a trigger.

Moscow is a city under the yoke of a tyrannical General Secretary (Adrian McLoughlin), who mercilessly executes dissenters in the ranks. When Stalin's meddling creates unnecessary panic at a live radio recording of a piano concerto, virtuoso soloist Maria Yudina (Olga Kurylenko) voices her displeasure in a letter. When the General Secretary reads her swingeing missive, he collapses and dies.

The following morning, chief of security Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) is first on the grim scene and gathers classified documents that could prove valuable in the coming days. Close adviser Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) arrives soon afterwards.

The Death Of Stalin is a ghoulish black comedy that deftly melds historical fact and bile-drenched fiction. Iannucci relishes parallels to modern-day diplomatic wrangling as over-inflated male egos collide head-on.