The Dictator sees Sacha Baron Cohen shift from the popular mockumentary style of Borat and Bruno to a straight fictional narrative. In The Dictator, Admiral General Aladeen, dictator of invented country Wadiya, is kidnapped during a visit to the USA and replaced by a body double. Left to fend for himself on the streets of New York, Aladeen must find a way to convince the world he is Wadiya’s real dictator, before his body double declares his beloved country a democracy.
In a rare interview for BBC Radio Four, Baron Cohen recently described The Dictator as a ‘pro-democracy’ film
Clearly this subject matter fits in with Baron Cohen’s preference for the controversial. In a rare interview for BBC Radio Four, Baron Cohen recently described The Dictator as a ‘pro-democracy’ film, likely to offend dictators and enemies of democracy. The Dictator is a political satire that is subtle in parts and vulgar in others. Inspired by Gaddafi and other recent dictators, many of the film’s best touches are inspired by fact, including Aladeen’s female virgin guards.
The idea of a dictator left to fend for himself as an ordinary man is a nice concept, but we don’t get to see enough of this – the time Aladeen spends alone in New York city is much too short and he is soon joined by fellow Wadiyans. Neither do we get to see enough of him on his own turf back in Wadiya. Nonetheless, The Dictator has plenty of very funny gags – a helicopter ride with American tourists being a definite highlight. At times The Dictator teeters on the edge of rom-com territory, but the laughs this material provides are entirely worth it.
If you loathe crude jokes and vulgarity, The Dictator is not for you. Baron Cohen has not altogether done away with gross humour and there’s a particularly grotesque scene in which Aladeen plays midwife. While this humour is likely to have it’s desired effect – making it’s audience cringe and squirm – it doesn’t represent the best that The Dictator has to offer.
The Dictator certainly delivers on laughs. The satire is both sharp and funny, but there are also some missed opportunities. Aladeen’s final speech to the UN delegation is the pinnacle of the satire and should not be missed. Baron Cohen fans will undoubtedly love this but there’s plenty for newcomers to enjoy too.
VERDICT: ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪
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