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  • Adaption Displacement: The film is based on a French graphic novel of the same name, La mort de Staline. The film's star power, critical success and effective Lighter and Softer use of satire have made it much better known than the source material.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Is Molotov really a blind Stalinist, or just a very dedicated survivor?
    • Does Timaschuk have actual medical training? Is she just a NKVD agent assigned to watch doctors, or is she an actual competent medical doctor victimized by Beria, who can't examine Stalin herself because the Committee would rather have him looked after by bottom of the barrel doctors, so long as they are male?
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    • Was Maria Yudina's insult letter to Stalin an attempt to commit suicide, or did she assume it wouldn't have any consequence because of its sheer audacity?
  • Americans Hate Tingle: The Russian Government reacted very negatively to the movie, partially due to a push they were making at the time to improve the image of Stalin and the Soviet government, and banned it. A few theaters screened the film anyway in protest, to extremely mixed reactions from audiences — at worst, they hated the film for making light of a dark time in their nation's history, taking liberties with historical accuracy, and Not Even Bothering with the Accent; at best, they considered it a flawed but somewhat entertaining satire of the Soviet Union's cutthroat politics.
  • Catharsis Factor: Deconstructed. Being the psycho that he is, Beria unquestionably deserves the pathetic death he receives. However, the lynch mob that does him in consists of similarly-wretched bastards who are also guilty of appalling crimes against humanity that, in any other situation, would have earned them the death penalty as well — something Beria repeatedly points out during his "trial", only to be ignored or shouted down. Beria's rapacious nature does genuinely disgust them, but that's secondary to the fact that him becoming de facto head of the Soviet Union would be problematic for them.
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  • Complete Monster: Lavrentiy Beria, the head of the NKVD, desires control over Russia, using his position to murder, torture, and rape whomever he wants, regardless of age. After discovering that Stalin's dead, Beria crafts his own enemy list to replace Stalin's, has the NKVD take over city security duties from the Soviet Army, and appoints weak-minded Deputy General Secretary Georgy Malenkov as Premier of Russia to be used as a political puppet. Refusing to allow Stalin's mourners into Moscow for his funeral, once 1,500 of them are slaughtered by his soldiers, he instead blames the mourners for being there against his orders, and refuses to allow his NKVD troops to act as scapegoats for fear that it'll tarnish his reputation.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • Some of the constant and casual executions end up becoming this, something shocking in a modern society but portrayed as just business as usual in a totalitarian state.
      Molotov: Stalin would be loving this.
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    • Molotov is this all the time. He denounces his wife as a traitor when Beria attempts to buy him by releasing her, exclaims that Stalin would love the Committee ganging up on Beria, and takes a piss while Beria is being arrested in the bathroom. Remember Malenkov and Beria's earlier exchange about pissing?
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Everyone is great, but many have singled out Jason Isaacs' scenery-chewing performance as General Zhukov. It helps that Zhukov is probably the least morally ambiguous of the Soviet elite.
  • Genius Bonus: After an underage maid was raped by Beria, the girl is returned to her parents with a bouquet of flowers. In real life, Beria gave his rape victims bouquets of flowers after raping them. If they accepted, he took this as a sign that the sex was "consensual" and released them. If not, he made them disappear.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Malenkov being the only person against Beria’s execution despite all the rapes he committed that Khrushchev brings up to him seems a bit awkward, as around the time of the movie's U.K. release (and a couple of months before the film's U.S. release), Malenkov’s actor, Jeffrey Tambor, was one of many actors accused of sexual misconduct.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Malenkov telling Khrushchev and his supporters to "kiss [his] Russian ass" becomes this for those who remember another character played by Jeffrey Tambor being tricked into kissing a dog's ass.
    • This is not the first time that Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough have played two women on the opposite sides of a crisis.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Nikita Khrushchev begins as one of Josef Stalin's inner circle, playing a delicate game to survive his insane leader's violent whims. Upon Stalin's death, Khrushchev enters into a power struggle with the monstrous Lavrentiy Beria who usurps his plans to free political prisoners and restore the church. Upon realizing the NKVD has replaced the Red Army, Khrushchev orders the borders reopened so the resulting flood of people trigger the NKVD to violence, killing many people and ruining Beria's public image. Khrushchev then has Beria arrested after allying with Georgy Zhukov of the Red Army and organizes Beria's complete downfall, show trial and execution to eventually take total control of the Soviet Union and reform it.
  • Memetic Mutation: Khrushchev's "ruling"/Pre-Mortem One-Liner to Beria has gained popularity with viewers who often change it around to suit dissenters in fandoms or communities.
    "You are accused of treason and anti Soviet behavior. The court finds you guilty and sentences you to be shot."
  • Moral Event Horizon: While many of the characters in the movie aren't exactly pillars of virtue, Lavrentiy Beria takes the cake as a Manipulative Bastard who ordered the deaths of many people, with or without Stalin's behest, and molested women and children. As a result, many of the Politburo members found disgust for Beria.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • Since Aleksei Kapler was actually alive in 1953, Beria could have released him (or claim his intention to) as a way to get Svetlana firmly under his grip and use her against Khrushchev. However, the movie's Beria claims that he was Killed Off for Real in 1949, and there is no benefit for him to lie about it, so it must be true within the movie's universe.
    • One of the doctors arrested during The Purge noticed that something was weird when the interrogators suddenly and unexpectedly switched from usual "who are your foreign friends?" questions to medical-related questions. As funny as the abduction of the old doctor from the streets is in the movie, such scene would fit the absurdist Black Comedy of the movie to a T.
  • What an Idiot!: After the trains are restarted and over a thousand people are killed by Beria's security forces, the Presidium gathers together with Krushchev (who restarted the trains) and Beria hurling blame at each other. Beria already knows that Krushchev is trying to manoeuvre against him and knows that this was an attempt to weaken his position. While they argue, Malenkov suggests that they blame the ground members of the NKVD, while the other members point out to Beria that they can close ranks to shield him from the majority of the blame, thus ensuring that Krushchev's attempt failed.
    • You'd Expect:: For Beria to diplomatically agree with this and try to work with the other members to frame Krushchev as the main culprit, pointing out that it was him who restarted the trains. This would clear himself of blame and strengthen his position among the members of the party.
    • Instead: Beria proceeds to have a meltdown and scream abuse and threats at the other members of the Presidium, including his main ally Malenkov. He then digs up all the dirt he has on them and threatens to leak all the information.
    • The Result: Beria alienates what few allies he had left and convinces everyone to ally against him. This directly leads to his arrest and execution.
    • Perhaps justified, since it's pretty clearly established that Beria is a vain psychopath with rather poor impulse control.

Comic Book

  • Complete Monster: Lavrentiy Beria, chief of the NKVD and Stalin's personal attack dog, quickly moves to try and ensure Stalin's death when the former dictator falls into a coma to consolidate his own power. Beria has countless people tortured and executed in the depths of the nation's gulags, while ruthlessly buying off or otherwise attempting to silence his political opposition, attempting to frame Khruschev to have him bear the brunt of his treason to the nation. Beria is also a disgusting Serial Rapist who treats his violent assaults with a bored, hobbyist mentality, reacting with mild irritation when a phone call interrupts him in the middle of a session while ordering the woman's father arrested right after.
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