Film review: The Dictator

Desiree Pakiam
Advanced Screening

It's almost a given that Sacha Baron Cohen's work would be controversial. After all, we have his past fictional characters to go by: Think Borat (a journalist from Kazakhstan), Ali G (boorish British rapper) and Bruno (a gay fashion reporter from Austria).

For his latest movie, The Dictator, Cohen started the ruse early. When the comedian walked the Oscars 2012 red carpet as the title character, Admiral General Hafez Aladeen, he carried an urn and was flanked by two female bodyguards — and 'accidentally' spilled the urn's ashes onto E! news host Ryan Seacrest. Cohen apologised, claiming that it was the ashes of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. (The movie production team later clarified that it was flour.)

Publicity stunt accomplished. So what else is there for The Dictator?

Well, compared to Borat, Ali G and Bruno, the movie doesn't include people who were filmed mockumentary style. Which makes it a bit of a departure for Cohen, whose previous films featured individuals' reactions to his characters to great effect.

Here's how the story goes
As the ruler of the Republic of Wadiya, a fictitious North African country which borders Sudan, Aladeen's word is absolute. Self-centred, he organises Olympic games where he awards himself several medals, and adds new words to the dictionary.

He is also suspected of developing nuclear weapons, especially after he refuses to let any weapons inspector enter the country. So his pampered lifestyle is suddenly threatened when he is told that NATO plans to launch an airstrike against him.

What's more, a family member plots to dispose of him and step into his shoes.

What you can expect

Politically incorrect and crude jokes, of course — it goes without saying. (Right from the beginning they dedicated the film to Kim Jong Il.) You better come in with an open mind, so you wouldn't feel as shocked — or cringe as much.

Some examples:

"I love it when women go to school. It's like seeing a monkey on roller skates -- it means nothing to them, but it's so adorable for us..."

"We dictators aren't all bad. While Western countries continue to ravage our planet's resources, we preserve our land and conserve it by burying thousands of bones in single mass eco-graves."

"Here are differences between the Wadiyan film industry and Hollywood. People say I am extravagant for using 20 trillion bottles of Fiji water every day to make snow for my ski resort in the middle of the desert, but am I the person who created 'John Carter'?"

*After helping to deliver a baby girl* "Oh it's a girl. I'm so sorry. Where's the trash can?"

Can you still take it? Know that The Dictator still manages to right plenty of wrongs at the end of the movie. It's up to you if you want to stay in your seat and watch it happen, then.