Following his red-carpet antics at this year’s Academy Awards, there was huge anticipation around the kind of stunt Sacha Baron Cohen might pull-off at the World Premiere of his latest movie, The Dictator, in London last night. And his latest incarnation AKA the Wadiyan Dictator General Aladeen did not disappoint, rolling up at the star studded Royal Festival Hall in a tow truck after his bright orange sports car was clamped. It seems that even the last remaining Dictator is subject to London’s parking restrictions and diplomatic immunity isn’t granted to international criminals.
He might be ruthless and cold blooded, but you can’t help but like the world’s cruelest, most bigoted, most deluded yet most affable Dictator. Put a foot wrong in Wadiya and you could find yourself condemned to decapitation at the autocrat’s whim. Not surprising the resistance movement, masterminded by Aladeen’s right hand man Tamir (Sir Ben Kingsley) is planning a coup to oust the bearded leader and a New York state visit to address the United Nations provides the opportunity. A switched identity with one of his lookalike bodyguards, however, sees the General down and out in the Big Apple while the simpleton and malleable doppelgänger takes his place in international politics, a puppet manipulated by Tamir.
Aladeen heroically risks his life to ensure democracy will never come to the country he so lovingly oppresses and his plight brings a romantic encounter in the form of Zoey, played by Anna Faris. Zoey takes him under her wing and gives him a new life as a shop assistant in her green ethical grocers, while Aladeen plans his return to power. He might have insulted every member of staff, but using his dictatorial skills, manages to turn around the flailing enterprise, into a well run organic store. Meanwhile he plots his return to power. Stripped of his regalia, he can’t prove his true identity and has to watch his simpleton look alike bodyguard imposter attempt to renounce power and declare a democracy in Wadiya.
The Dictator might lack the audacious shock factor of Borat and Bruno, but it compensates with a beautifully crafted comedic script interwoven with allusions to a number of the world’s late dictators who lost their power over the last year. It’s start to finish laughs and Baron Cohen confirms his talent both as a writer and performer.