Saturday, June 02, 2012

The Dictator (2012)

Diktaattori / The Dictator [Swedish title]. US © 2012 Paramount Pictures. EX: Mari Jo Winkley-Ioffreda, Adam McKay, Peter Baynham, Dan Mazer. P: Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer, Todd Schulman, Anthony Hines, Scott Rudin. D: Larry Charles. SC: Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer. DP: Lawrence Sher. PD: Victor Kempster. AD: Greg Berry, etc. SFX and VFX: Factory VFX, Framestore, Hatch Productions (matte paintings), LOOK! Effects, Luma Pictures, Shade VFX. Cost: Jeffrey Kurland. Makeup dept. head: Judy Chin. M: Erran Baron Cohen. S: Andrew DeCristofaro. ED: Greg Hayden, Eric Kissack. C: Sacha Baron Cohen (Admiral General Aladeen / his double Efawadh), Ben Kingsley (Tamir, Aladeen's uncle), Jason Mantzoukas (Nadal, nuclear physicist), Anna Faris (Zoey), John C. Reilly (Clayton), Chris Elliott (Mr. Ogden), Fred Armisen (Death to Aladeen Restaurant waiter), Megan Fox (herself), Edward Norton (himself). 83 min. Released by Finnkino with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Hartama / Ulrika Lindfors-Davis. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 2, 2 June 2012.

Technical specs from the IMDb: Camera: Arri Alexa, Panavision Primo Lenses - Negative format: Codex - Cinematographic process: ARRIRAW (source format), Digital Intermediate (2K) (master format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

This is the first picture in which I noticed the Paramount Centenary logo.

The official synopsis: "The heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed."

An offensive political satire.

Of the Sacha Baron Cohen movies I have seen Ali G Indahouse and Borat but missed Brüno.

The Dictator is a stronger and more solid movie than the first two Baron Cohen films. It has also a more traditional structure, but it does not matter, since the familiar "coming to America" plot is mostly but a hanger to Baron Cohen's crazy antics.

Obvious reference points are Charles Chaplin's The Great Dictator and Ernst Lubitsch's To Be Or Not To Be. In both the dictator is Hitler, in both the concept of the double is essential, and in both, the film-makers had the nerve to make a comedy about a contemporary genocidal tyrant. There are few direct connections in Baron Cohen's movie, but the changed beard motif has a distant connection to Lubitsch, and like in Chaplin's film there is a climactic speech given by a lookalike (in Baron Cohen's movie he is the original dictator replacing the double).

The Dictator has been filmed during the Arab spring, and, with a dedication to Kim Jong-il, its main targets are the tyrants of the modern world. Aladeen's project is to build his own nuclear weapon, and his main foes are the USA and Israel. As his entertainment Aladeen has a terrorist computer game selection, among which there is one devoted to the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes. In his guest house Aladeen hosts the real Osama bin Laden - the US has wiped out his double.

In New York, Aladeen's wily uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley) replaces Aladeen with his double with orders to eliminate Aladeen, but Aladeen survives without clothes or money. In an anti-Aladeen demonstration he meets a new-age hippie called Zoey (Anna Faris) who has hair in her armpits, who conceals her feminine figure with unisex clothes and who takes him to her feminist, vegan grocery store whose employees are refugees from dictatorships. Aladeen also stumbles into a Death to Aladeen restaurant whose staff and clientele consists of countrymen whom Aladeen had ordered to be executed.

There are funny single jokes such as Aladeen's anger at the luxury hotel where he must pay USD 20 extra for the internet.

There are also more serious satirical aspects such as that the big powers of the world don't worry so much about Aladeen's tyrannical ways and are really only concerned about the control of his oil resources. Meanwhile, Tamir strikes deals with oil barons from the USA, Britain, Russia, and the leader of the group from China, Mr. Lao (Bobby Lee).

The high point of the movie is Aladeen's speech at the United Nations in defense of dictatorship, passionately urging the democratic countries to follow his way. "Imagine a country where one per cent of the people controlled most of the wealth and leaders wage war against the wrong country for trumped-up reasons." "Imagine a country whose prisons are filled with one racial group." One family would control the media, the top 1% could avoid paying taxes, people could be prevented from getting affordable healthcare and education, one could use the government to listen in on people, one would be allowed to use torture to elicit confessions, elections could be rigged, and the same parties could remain in power perpetually.

The wily Aladeen manages to return to power, and he weds Zoey whose chutzpah he has learned to admire, but first after the wedding ceremony Aladeen learns that Zoey really is Jewish. (In New York, to the dismay of Nadal, Aladeen has picked up some Jewish vocabulary because he likes it when people say what they mean).

I liked the soundtrack of this movie.

I had no complaints about the visual quality of the presentation.

1 comment:

Arun said...

Nice review of the movie.

Check out my review .