Movies Books Music Food Tv Shows Technology Politics Video Games Parenting Fashion Green Living more >

Lunch » Tags » Movies » Reviews » The Devil's Double » User review

The Devil's Double

A movie directed by Lee Tamahori

< read all 3 reviews

Human Atrocities as Fodder for Violent Entertainment

  • Jul 30, 2011
Star Rating:

The Devil’s Double is sensationalism taken to appalling heights. Rather than adapt the true story Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia into a compelling historical drama, director Lee Tamahori and screenwriter Michael Thomas have instead made a lurid action thriller, one that reduces documented human atrocities to the level of violent entertainment. This is a profoundly wrong approach. The real Uday Hussein was by all accounts a psychopath, his alleged crimes ranging from the imprisonment and torture of poor-performing Iraqi athletes, shooting and killing an army officer that didn’t salute him, and kidnapping and raping young women, who in some instances would end up murdered. Downplaying this for the sake of escapism is downright insulting. How dare they end the film with a title card saying, “The rest is history”?
It’s adapted from Yahia’s own memoir, in which he documented how he was forced by Hussein to become his fiday, or body double, at the start of the Iran-Iraq War. This happened in 1987, when Yahia was only twenty-three years old. As fate would have it, he had been Hussein’s classmate at the age of fifteen, and it was reportedly noted how similar the two looked. While serving in the military in Baghdad, his unit received a dispatch ordering him to report to the Presidential Palace, where he was informed, in no uncertain terms, that he would pose as Hussein during dangerous public appearances. He initially refused, which allegedly resulted in him being placed in solitary confinement – and in him being tortured, if I’m to believe what the film tells me. He eventually relented and was then trained for six months to take on the mannerisms of Hussein. He was also surgically altered and given a false set of teeth.

In the film, both Yahia and Hussein are played by Dominic Cooper. His take on Yahia is about as decent as it can possibly be given the material, although it falls apart rather quickly during the final scenes, which devolve to a second-rate spy thriller before ending on a note of unnecessary brutality. His take on Hussein, on the other hand, is despicable. This is a tricky one to explain, since the real Hussein was himself quite despicable. It’s a matter of context; if you’re going to depict the evil exploits of a once living madman, you must go about it with some degree of respect, not only to the victims but also to history itself. In fictionalizing Hussein, The Devil’s Double shows no reverence for anyone living or dead. He’s made into a buffoonish caricature, and somehow, he remains that way even while raping, murdering, and torturing.
There are many scenes in which he parties. We see him strutting around in clubs, dancing provocatively with loose women, smoking cigars, taking drugs, and generally behaving like an addict on overdrive. When he isn’t partying, he imposes his will on others with the same tact of a child having a temper tantrum. His reputation with prostitutes and young girls may account for his fixation on his penis; early scenes have him boasting in the most colorful of ways, and in one particular instance, he even got to compare himself to Yahia. We also see Hussein as a whiny brat who can’t win the approval of his infamous father, Saddam (Philip Quast), who clearly favored his younger son, Qusay. It’s said that in real life, Uday considered his father’s second marriage an insult to his mother. The film depicts this disapproval in a grotesque scene where he lies in bed with his mother, cuddling against her and resting his head on her chest.

A ridiculous subplot involves Yahia forming a bond with Hussein’s mistress, Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier), who dresses like a Tokyo Pop reject and is given dialogue usually reserved for seductive Bond girls. As their feelings for one another grow deeper, they inch ever closer to an inevitable chase, which, in the tradition of spy movies, is on an international scale. Their final scene involves a revelation that would typically be used in a second rate tale of intrigue. So now the film is both reprehensible and predictable. There is nothing about Sarrab that’s even remotely plausible; she seems to have been slipped into the screenplay out of necessity for the male lead to be paired with a sexy sidekick.
I’ll be the first to admit that movie violence can be fun. I do not believe, however, that violent acts of history should be downgraded for the sake of giving audiences a cheap thrill. That kind of thing is an insult to those that lived through them and to the memory of those that didn’t. Watching The Devil’s Double, my mind drifted to films such as Schindler’s List, Munich, and Johnny Mad Dog. Steven Spielberg and Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire took their respective subject matters seriously, thank God. But what if they hadn’t? What if they had made the same spectacularly bad decisions made by Lee Tamahori, who clearly does not see the inherent solemnity of war and death? I should hope no one would have stood for them. If you appreciate human history and the value of life, you will not stand for this reprehensible excuse of a movie.


What did you think of this review?

Fun to Read
Post a Comment
July 30, 2011
John and Joan liked this one a lot. Your descriptions have gotten my attention for sure (even though your rating was low), I may have to see this one once it gets released here on Aug. 4. Thanks for the review!
July 31, 2011
I don't know who John and Joan are, but I have to say, I don't understand how anyone could like this movie. As I said in my review, I believe it's wrong to downplay Hussein's inhumane crimes for the sake of entertainment. It shows disrespect to his victims and to those that managed to survive him. Or am I just being a prude, as I so often seem to be?
July 31, 2011
Oh, Joan and John are @ (my bad). I do understand where you are coming from and I do agree. I took some heat when I gave Titanic 2-2.5/5 stars awhile back. I felt that the victims and the injustices in the true event were ignored to give more focus on a 60's type silly romance. If its a true event, I want to see a little accuracy and in taking the viewer to the actual setting. Watching Titanic, I wanted to feel the tragedy of the event and not the tragic lost of love (which happens everyday).
August 01, 2011
Thanks for clarifying about the names. As for Titanic, well, all I can say is that I completely disagree. The 10% that separates us has reared its ugly head.
More The Devil's Double reviews
review by . December 09, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Uday Hussein's Atrocities and Latif Yahia's Defiance
I am at a slight disadvantage here since I have not read the novel by Latif Yahia (one of the two main characters in the film) from which director Lee Tamahori’s (Die Another Day) “The Devil’s Double” has been based on. One thing is obvious from the beginning, this film is stylish, a little loud and definitely filled with sadistic violence as it brings the madness of Uday Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein into the big screen. It may be a little shallow at its core, …
Quick Tip by . August 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Hello all.    If you're looking for a little further insight into THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE, be sure to check out my interview with the man who plays both of the film's lead roles, Dominic Cooper.    http://blacksheepreviews.blogspot.com/2011/0...ews-dominic-cooper.html
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
Consider the Source

Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.

Your ratings:
rate more to improve this
About this movie



Director: Lee Tamahori
Genre: Action, Biography, Drama
Release Date: 12 August 2011 (UK)
Screen Writer: Michael Thomas, Latif Yahia
Runtime: 108 min
© 2014 Lunch.com, LLC All Rights Reserved
Lunch.com - Relevant reviews by real people.
This is you!
Ranked #
Last login
Member since