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How To Become A Tyrant – Quick Review

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Peter Dinklage has the voice of a God. It wasn’t until the credits rolled in for the first episode of “How To Become A Tyrant” that I realized Dinklage was the narrator of this docu-series.

This deviously witty documentary talks of a “playbook” that will help aspiring tyrants on the path of world domination. Divided into six episodes, the makers then explain how six infamous tyrants made their mark in history. And it obviously starts with the führer – Adolf Hitler – and the title of the episode is “seize power”.

So how did Hitler seize power? “How To Become A Tyrant” makers introduce to us a young Hitler who was merely another one of the many German soldiers duringn World War I. But not for long. And here’s what makes this documentary stand-out from all the 1000s of explainers on these villains – some really good animation. For the historical bits where there is no archival footage to go along, the team conjures up animation to carry the story forward, instead of an “expert” or “narrator” looking at the screen and delivering monologues.

Each episode is spun like a mystery novel, trying to crack the key to brutality of a famous few. Throw in Dinklage’s deep-throated narrator voice, some grunge-style music, clean bold info-graphics, colourful animation and you have the recipe for an engaging documentary. Although, there’s definitely some subtle American propaganda thrown in the mix, conveying how their formula of democracy and leadership style is what’s best for the people. Let’s give you a clear example – each animated parallels of the tyrants are given these mad shiny eyes, like those of a serial killer. Ensuring you see them as treacherous figures, even if they looked quite ordinary.

After Adolf Hitler, we have Saddam Hussein, followed by Idi Amin, Joseph Stalin, Muammar Gaddafi and finally the North Korean dictators – the Kim family. Viewers will soon begin to see a pattern to these oppressive regimes that terrorised different parts of the world. And there isn’t just a pattern that stands out, but soon, viewers who follow world politics will also be able to draw parallels with national leaders that are at the helm of democratic nations. Maybe all leaders have a little tyrant tucked away in a deep corner of their heart. Because let’s get real, like Dinklage says at the beginning – we all want absolute power, we just don’t know how to get it.

Of all the episodes, the last one felt a little rushed and unsatisfactory. It’s perhaps because unlike the first five parts where the focus is only on one cult personality, Korea didn’t have just one successful tyrant, but three. So the episode is split into three parts and given the fact that Kim Jong-un’s reign is still an ongoing history, it becomes tricky to satisfactorily wrap the story.

“How To Become A Tyrant” is one of those rare documentaries that has a high re-watch value. You could watch it with the entire family, and maybe start laying a foundation for your own Kim style family dynasty.

Stream on: Netflix

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