While I understand the points the reviewers giving this five stars are making, I think this film falls flat on its face and misses, by a mile, the subtle comedy and the air of menace in Yuri Krotkov's book. The film is one-dimensional, as are most of the portrayals from otherwise fine actors who ham it up dreadfully as if the director is trying to say to the audience, "Look! Isn't this funny?" If they had introduced a custard-pie fight halfway through I wouldn't have been surprised. As it is, in Krotkov's book, a confident male American journalist cross-questions Stalin, while the dictator quietly sizes him up as a potential Soviet spy. In the film, the male reporter is replaced by a toe-curlingly awful, stereotypical buxom blonde who "Hot dawgs!" her way through the interview, Carry-On-style, while Stalin tries not to look at her legs! In the book, Stalin is a multi-layered character, alternately monstrous and human, sympathetic and murderous. In the film he just seems like a buffoon. His simpering conversation with daughter Svetlana is another case of over-egged pudding. The nuances of his character are lost. The panther-like qualities of this ruthless modern Tsar are almost entirely absent. If they had not been, the director would not have had to make up another daft scene where the Politburo members' break into a comedic Russian folk dance in relief at Stalin's demise - just to make sure the viewers get the point!
I accept it is not easy to communicate everything in a book to the wider viewing public, especially on a topic that would not attract huge audiences, but they could have come a lot closer than this. Yes, there is dark humour and chilling farce in Stalin's reign of terror - Krotkov brings that humour out brilliantly. This film handles it clumsily and goes over the top in the process. If it were to be remade today it might well be better. Hopefully, someone will give it another try.