The Dictator (2012)


Introduction

The Dictator is a 2012 political satire comedy film co-written by and starring Sacha Baron Cohen as his fourth feature film in a leading role.

The film is directed by Larry Charles, who previously directed Baron Cohen’s mockumentaries Borat and Brüno.

Baron Cohen, in the role of Admiral General Aladeen, the dictator of the fictional Republic of Wadiya visiting the United States, stars alongside Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Jason Mantzoukas, and an uncredited appearance by John C. Reilly.

Producers Jeff Schaffer and David Mandel said that Baron Cohen’s character was inspired by real-life dictators like Kim Jong-il, Idi Amin, Muammar Gaddafi, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Saparmurat Niyazov.

The film’s opening credits dedicate it to Kim Jong-il, “in loving memory”.

Outline

For years, the fictional North African nation of the Republic of Wadiya has been ruled by Admiral-General Haffaz Aladeen, a childish, tyrannical, sexist, anti-Western, and antisemitic dictator who surrounds himself with female bodyguards, sponsors terrorism (especially giving shelter to al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden after “they killed his double one year ago”), changes many words in the Wadiyan dictionary to “Aladeen”, and is working on developing nuclear weapons to attack Israel. He also refuses to sell Wadiya’s oil fields, a promise he made to his father prior to his death. After the United Nations Security Council resolves to intervene militarily, Aladeen travels to the UN Headquarters in New York City to address the council.

Shortly after arriving, Aladeen is kidnapped by Clayton, supposedly in charge of the security preparations but was a hitman hired by his treacherous uncle Tamir, whom Aladeen’s father passed over as successor in favour of his son. Tamir then replaces Aladeen with a dimwitted lookalike named Efawadh, whom he intends to manipulate into signing a document nominally democratising Wadiya while opening up the country’s oil fields to the Chinese and other foreign vested interests. Aladeen escapes after Clayton accidentally burns himself to death in a failed torture attempt. When his burnt corpse is discovered, Tamir thinks Aladeen has been killed. However, Aladeen is practically unrecognisable as Clayton shaved off his iconic beard prior to his death.

Wandering through New York City, Aladeen encounters Zoey, a human rights activist who offers him a job at her socially progressive, alternative lifestyle co-op. Aladeen refuses the offer and encounters “Nuclear” Nadal, the former chief of Wadiya’s nuclear weapons programme, whom Aladeen thought he had previously executed over an argument about the warhead’s design. Aladeen follows him to New York’s “Little Wadiya” district, which is populated by refugees from his own country, and meets him in “Death to Aladeen Restaurant”, a restaurant run by and visited by numerous people whom Aladeen had ordered to be executed. The restaurant’s waiter and the refugees mistake him as “Aladeen sympathiser” after a failed attempt to cover up his identity and is about to be attacked when Nadal saves him. Nadal reveals to Aladeen that all the people he had ordered to be executed are instead sent into exile to the United States; the secret police were actually members of the resistance. Nadal agrees to help Aladeen thwart Tamir’s plot and regain his power, on condition that Aladeen makes him head of Wadiya’s nuclear programme again. Aladeen agrees and accepts Zoey’s job offer, as she is catering at the hotel where the signing is to occur. Aladeen grows closer to Zoey after she refuses his sexual advances and teaches him how to masturbate, and eventually falls in love with her after seeing her angry. Turning around Zoey’s struggling business, Aladeen begins imposing strict schedules on everyone, forming a personality cult around Zoey and intimidating an inspector into giving the store a good review.

However, Aladeen’s relationship with Zoey becomes strained after he decides to be honest with her and reveal his true self; she cannot love a man who was so brutal to his own people. After acquiring a new beard taken from a corpse, Aladeen ziplines into the hotel and tells Efawadh he has recovered; his double was fooled into thinking the Supreme Leader was ill. At the signing ceremony, he tears up Tamir’s document in front of the media and holds an impassioned speech praising the virtues of dictatorship, drawing unintended parallels to current issues in the United States. However, upon seeing Zoey in the room, he declares his love for her and, knowing Zoey’s strongly-held views, vows to democratise his country and open up Wadiya’s oil fields for business, but in a way where the general populace will benefit. Angry with Aladeen staying in power, Tamir attempts to assassinate him but Efawadh jumps in front of the bullet and survives, as it is his job “to be shot in the head”. Tamir is arrested afterwards.

A year later, Wadiya holds its first democratic elections, although they are rigged in favour of Aladeen (who has now added the titles President–Prime Minister to his previous Admiral-General). Afterwards, he marries Zoey, but is shocked when she breaks a glass with her foot and reveals herself to be Jewish; throughout the film he was shown vowing to “destroy Israel”. Scenes during the credits show Aladeen’s convoy, now consisting of eco-friendly cars, Aladeen visiting a re-instated Nadal, and later Zoey revealing in a television interview that she is pregnant with the couple’s first child. Aladeen responds to the news by asking if Zoey is having “a boy or an abortion”.

Unrated Version

The unrated cut of The Dictator runs an additional fifteen minutes from the original 83-minute theatrical version. Much of the added material is additional sexual content and dialogue. There is a scene following Aladeen falling asleep in the back of the store where one of his bodyguards, Etra, tries to kill him by beating him with her enlarged breasts on orders by Tamir. Another added scene is Mr. Ogden, the manager of the Lancaster Hotel, talking to Zoey at The Collective and cancelling the catering contract because of Aladeen.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Larry Charles.
  • Producer(s): Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, Anthony Hines, David Mandel, Scott Rudin, Jeff Schaffer, and Todd Schulman.
  • Writer(s): Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel, and Jeff Schafer.
  • Music: Erran Baron Cohen.
  • Cinematography: Lawrence Sher.
  • Editor(s): Greg Hayden and Eric Kissack.
  • Production: Four By Two Films.
  • Distributor(s): Paramount Pictures.
  • Release Date: 16 May 2012.
  • Running Time: 83 minutes.
  • Country: UK and US.
  • Language: English.

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