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An Ordinary Execution Review

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Moscow, 1953. Pretty young doctor Anna (Hands) is renowned for her healing gifts. They soon bring her to the attention of the Soviet Union's aging dictator, Joseph Stalin, and leave her fate in the lap of a monster.

★★★★★

Marc Dugain adapts his novel into a compelling study of Stalinist evil. Voyeuristic cameras duck into the apparatus of the police state, from tenements filled with prying eyes to the eavesdropping halls of the Kremlin — it’s a perilous labyrinth that young doctor Anna (Marina Hands) must negotiate. Stalin (André Dussollier) appoints her as his personal physician — one misdiagnosed sniffle could mean a stretch in Lubyanka.

The pace is ponderous at times, but the Hobson’s-choice insanity of a paranoid nation makes for good drama. Dussollier is avuncular and ruthless — and always petrifying. Nearly a decade on from the war, he’s a dying monster in search of one final skirmish.

Always mesmerising, Dussollier's Stalin is a portrait of a leader whose frailties are matched only by his capacity for evil.