Admiral General Aladeen (Cohen) is the ruler of the North African Republic of Wadiya and far from desirable to those he rules over. With everything at his disposal , Aladeen rules with disregard for international relations as well as being anti-western, anti-feminist and outrageously self-absorbed. So much so, that the man has created his very own Wadiyan Games, in which he has won a stack load of gold medals, as well as being a big movie star in the country, despite his acting skills lacking hugely to say the least. A man who pays for sex with famous female celebrities and has a knack for ordering executions within his staff, Aladeen is eons from being a highly thought of leader.
When testing for nuclear weapons hits a successful stage, Aladeen is summoned by the United Nations to visit America to discuss the goings-on in Wadiya or face military action. Travelling to the States with his female bodyguards and his scheming uncle, Tamir (Ben Kingsley), Aladeen soon finds himself captured and his beard shed, with a body double replacing him. It appears that his uncle has betrayed him and aims to use the double in order to declare Wadiya a democracy, to enable him the ability to sell oil to other countries for a tidy profit.
Determined to foil his evil uncle’s plot, Aladeen befriends honest activist Zoey (Anna Faris) and works closely with his former nuclear scientist Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas) in order to infiltrate the hotel in which the double is being prepared, and stop the impending confirmation of Wadiya as a democracy before all is lost.
As one would expect, The Dictator is a one-man show in the respect that Cohen controls and commands each and every scene. There will be outcries from activists, political figures and many others but one cannot deny the wit of the man, even with some the in-film gags bordering on unnecessary. Bringing to screen once again a controversial character, the comic maintains that shock factor whilst adapting it to a regular film style as opposed to previous efforts Borat and Bruno. Whilst the shock factor is still present, it remains to be seen the longevity of such characters for Cohen in these types of films. It was the surprise factor and the real-life situations that brought the biggest laughs in his previous efforts and this time around, knowing that it is all staged, it doesn’t quite hit the mark as well.
Performance-wise, Cohen is undoubtedly the one-man gang; brave in representing a politically harsh individual and adding something quite engaging to the character surprisingly. His delivery of particular lines is spot on and, despite many controversial issues within the movie, remains unflinching in his presentation of such stereotypical subject matters. With Cohen’s antics standing out so much, it would always be difficult for the support cast to attract such attention but the likes of Ben Kingsley, Anna Faris and the extremely funny Jason Mantzoukas all contribute to make the film funnier or, in Faris’ case, slightly heartfelt.
Sitrred and driven by a storm of controversy and political issues, The Dictator was always destined to follow down the same path of Sacha Baron Cohen’s previous big screen efforts. Tackling issues such as 9/11 and world-renowned terrorists, it is unflinching in its portrayal of a global tyrant and Cohen does not deter from the serious issues raised throughout the duration. Director Larry Charles can be commended purely for some truly hilarious set pieces as well as a character who many will not forget as the most notable of any film in 2012. Whether a film you thoroughly enjoy or one that disgusts you down to the bone, it is undeniable that The Dictator works in planting itself in the mind once the film is over and continues the chaotic reign of Sacha Baron Cohen’s repertoire of lunatic characters.