Starring: Mikheil Gomiashvili, Dachi Orvelashvili, Leo Antadze
Director: Mohsen Makhmalbaf
Running Time: 119 mins
The President is a Georgian film about a brutal dictator who finds himself thrust head first into the hardships created by his own regime after a surprise revolution leads to his downfall.
With an original premise that sets the leader of a brutal regime against the very chaos that he created, I was intrigued by The President from the start. And although at first it proves a riveting and impressively satirical film, it doesn’t quite manage to sustain that throughout, unfortunately falling into somewhat of a repetitive streak as we watch the dictator desperately try to hide away from the ever-growing mob of angry citizens calling for his capture and death.
Let’s start with the positives, however, the biggest of which has to be the film’s biting satire. As I said, it’s not kept up the whole way through, but particularly in the opening act, it does a fantastic job of poking fun at despot dictators, as well as offering an entertaining and yet intriguing portrayal of how revolutions unfold over the longer term.
The strange thing about this movie is that it’s by no means meant to be a comedy, but I found its biggest strength to be its dark humour. The dictator is obviously the main target for this humour, and seeing him fall from grace so abruptly, from a lavish presidential palace to scrounging around in the mud in the middle of nowhere, is particularly entertaining.
However, the film is also entertaining and interesting on another level in the way that it portrays the development of a revolution. Portraying a popular uprising that is particularly reminiscent of the Arab Spring, it’s a convincing and exciting way to open a film, but what’s most impressive is how it sustains the film’s focus of the revolutionaries throughout.
Rather than simply portraying the people as heroic citizens finally standing up against tyranny, the movie takes yet another satirical view in showing them as a disorganised and ultimately confused bunch of people that, although are fighting for justice, don’t show all that much skill, intelligence or desire to be able to change things for the better once the dictator is brought down, something that had me interested right the way through.
Despite that, I felt that the film’s main focus, that of the dictator attempting to evade capture by disguising himself as a lowly peasant, just didn’t have the legs to go the whole distance, and I ultimately felt a little more bored than I would have liked watching this film.
The irony there is fantastic, watching the president suffer the hardships that he himself has created, however there’s not much more depth to the story than that, proving in the end little more than a simple story of avoiding capture by the revolutionaries, and given that it is that part of the story that takes up a good three-quarters of the runtime, I can’t call The President the world’s most endlessly enthralling watch.
Overall, I did like The President, and really appreciated its brilliant satire and original perspective on modern revolutions, however it doesn’t quite work out as an engrossing piece of cinema, simply because its central plot doesn’t have the depth to really engage you, nor does it consistently refresh itself with new and interesting plot lines, and that’s why I’m giving this a 7.1.