125 Min. | Comedy – Drama – War | Decembe 1940
IMDB Rating: 8.5
Director: Charles Chaplin
Staring: Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Jack Oakie
The Great Dictator Review: In Tomania (Germany), dictator Hynkel (Chaplin, doing a fantastic job aping and subverting Hitler’s (both he and Mussolini are reduced to spoilt children, screaming when they don’t get their way, with their world-altering war decisions being nothing more than them stroking their own egos, an all too true breakdown of many major despots) mannerisms, shouting nonsense speeches and short temper) has a doppelganger in a poor, kind Jewish barber (the contrast he creates between these is compelling) – and the fact that the two look the same, yet are treated so differently is one of numerous clever, and often subtle, comments on the ideology.
In The Great Dictator, the writing reveals a thorough understanding of the thinking, reasoning and actions of the Nazis. Sure, there are details that are changed or the like, forgivably to ease the story-telling, to make a point, etc. There are also other types of comedy, mocking and black humor is used to remove the sting from the fear of the shells, army and the mistreatment of the children of Israel. And that last one is treated seriously, as well. The tone will switch very effectively, and suddenly we are afraid of something similar to what we’ve just been chuckling at. This way, the reality doesn’t become lost, and one can sense the actual threat of persecution and foreign invasion right underneath it all.
The smart references, including some that, at the time, not everyone would have known enough to get, are mixed in with simpler material. While the slapstick can be rather inspired, the wordplays are on the nose, and there is the occasional half-baked gag, abandoned as quickly and abruptly as it is begun. This is swiftly paced, and the 120 minute running time tends to go by smoothly (if the narrative jumps awkwardly once or twice). Acting is strong for all concerned, both the broad gesturing and the finer nuances (Goddard is charming, inspiring and memorable as the outspoken Hannah). There is a little violent and disturbing content in The Great Dictator. Recommend this to everyone who appreciates satire dealing with tragedy. Overall, The Great Dictator is an excellent film.