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, but I have to admit there are some films that can be carried by an outstanding performance. Dominic Cooper takes on dual roles in this drama-thriller and man, does he truly steal the show.
Latif Yahia is a classmate of Uday Hussein (both played by Cooper), who has been picked and taken from the military to double for the manic son of the dictator. He undergoes minor facial surgery, some implants and trains himself to speak like Uday so he can take on some of the risky activities that comes from being the son of Iraq’s leader. Through his eyes, the viewer gets to witness the depravity, the cruelty and the madness of Uday; a madman with extreme daddy issues and buck teeth. The longer Yahia impersonates Uday, the more Uday becomes obsessed with him and even calls him ‘brother’. But Uday’s malevolent behavior slowly causes Yahia to doubt his position and with his growing passion for a woman named Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier, Swimming Pool) may put his life and his family at risk…
The screenplay by Michael Thomas puts the focus on Uday’s timetable, you see Latif mostly with Uday, and most of the film revolves around Uday’s activities. Said activities are filled with depraved behavior and recklessness, and oftentimes even cruelty. I know Uday has been known for his malevolent nature that includes the rape of minors, having sex with a new bride, and even throwing parties that results with him killing a guest just because he can. The film also somewhat touches upon his estranged relationship with his father (played by Philip Quast) and how Saddam prefers to work with his other son Quasay. Saddam does not approve of Uday’s depraved behavior and outrageous actions, but he really does not do much to tow him in line either. For the most part, Uday is a one-dimensional character in the film; perhaps he is indeed this way, but I guess I wanted the screenplay to delve more into Latif’s background. You may say that the film chose to portray Latif during his time with Uday, and with this, it does limit its range a little too much.
The visual effects in the film are top-notch. I mean I could not tell that Uday and Latif were being played by the same actor. Their interactions seemed very natural and the editing never misses a beat. It also helps that Cooper just effortlessly goes into one character into the next, I was very impressed in the manner that he was able to portray each persona so convincingly. Cooper does Uday’s obsession with clothes, women, and drugs and his lack of political skills effortlessly while he goes into his psychopathic sadism. Then he manages to express the emotions needed; disgusted and repulsed as Latif is confronted with Uday’s misogynistic behavior. I have to tell you, Cooper is the highlight of the show. He was tailor-made to do this role, and he can definitely carry the film’s burden. Cooper was scary and disgusting as Uday and yet sympathetic up to a point as Latif.
Philip Quast's portrayal of Saddam may have limited screen time, but I thought his performance was satisfying as the dictator. His confrontation with Uday in the hospital was one of the film’s highlights. Sagnier’s character may feel a little too cliché as the woman who somehow aids in putting Latif back to face his reality. She was sexy and definitely alluring, but her character was a little too underwritten that I really didn’t care much for her. Nasser Memarzia was good as Latif’s father but I hoped that Raad Rawi’s character would’ve been better written, as his character as Munem had a lot of potential and as with Latif, his role was more reliant on Uday’s timetable and activities. The film is exquisitely shot; I truly felt that I was in Iraq and the passage of time did its job, as we get to see Latif and Uday before and after the Gulf war. Aided with some real news reels, the film does have a feeling of authenticity (short of the film being made in the Iraqi language).
I suppose “The Devil’s Double” would’ve been a much more compelling film if it really delved much deeper into Latif’s character than merely touching upon his time with Uday. It is a good film, but rather misses its mark due to the fact that the script wasn’t as ambitious as it should’ve been. It was obvious that the film could stand to be a lot longer, and may have lost its fast-paced style, it would have been much more powerful if it paid more attention to emotions and the drama needed to give Uday’s evil and Latif’s change of heart a visceral and narrative impression; it misses some plot turns as it limited itself. Still, Cooper is the man to watch here, and he does an incredible job in dual roles. This may be enough to keep this film above mediocrity.
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 … more
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