As usual, we're still cleaning up the previous year long after the mess has ceased to matter, but nevertheless, here's two reviews, for The Death of Stalin and First Man.
In 1953, Iosif Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) dies, and his inner circle jockeys for control of the Soviet Union. Two factions coalesce between Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) on one side and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) on the other.
The Death of Stalin is a terrifically ahistoric mish-mash that takes on the power struggle that defined Soviet governance over the months and years following its titular dictator's demise. It condenses that power struggle into a little less than one week's time—for cinema's sake—while getting tons and tons of things wrong, big and small alike. Somehow, it's the small things, like an overflight of several just-slightly-anachronistic jet bombers (probably Tu-16s) that are the most annoying. But the big things are pretty big, like a fictional massacre of Stalin's mourners by a security service that did not, in 1953, exist; or the implication that Stalin trusted Lavrentiy Beria any further than he could throw him, which he would've been likely to do (into a grave, that is), if Stalin had lived much longer than he had; hell, there're credible allegations (not in the film) that Beria got him first. But it gets at least one big thing right, and that's take Armando Ianucci's usual, cynical, somewhat tedious all-politicians-are-venal-or-morons-or-both approach to political satire (e.g., Veep), and applies it to a situation where total venality was, effectively, a necessary condition of literal survival. So that must be the other big thing it gets right: it makes for an effective black comedy that generates its uneasy laughs out of the nihilistic insanity of the very regime it inaccurately, but not quite untruthfully, depicts.