The Devil's Double

The Devil's Double
Made in: Netherlands, Belgium
Language: English
Director: Lee Tamahori
Starring: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier
Year: 2011

Synopsis: The film is based on the disputed biography of Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper), who claims he was forced to work as the decoy for Uday Hussein (also played by Dominic Cooper). Uday, as you probably know, was the eldest son of the infamous Iraqi dictator.

A veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, Latif comes from a middle class family that has largely kept out of trouble. A former classmate Uday, Latif bears a strong resemblance to the man and is chosen to act as Uday's body double/decoy during public events.

After undergoing some minor plastic surgery, Latif learns how to mimic Uday's voice inflection and mannerisms.

Given access to Uday's wealth, wardrobe, and hard-partying lifestyle, Latif gets a front row seat to the utter depravity and insanity of the dictator's son.

While desperately looking for a way out, Latif becomes enamored with Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier), a Lebanese woman who's one of many that Uday shares company with. Knowing that he is putting his life and that of his family in mortal danger, Latif hatches a daring escape plan as he is drawn deeper into Uday's sick and twisted world.

The Good: The Devil's Double is a slick, cleanly made thriller. Dominic Cooper does a very convincing job playing two roles, and the special effects team deserves tons of credit for seamlessly combining both characters in the same scene at the same time. Never once does the illusion distract from the story.

Director Lee Tamahori also does a good job building suspense and creating an emotionally intense narrative.

The Bad: I'm not sure what the point of the movie is. It shows us, in graphic detail, the insanity and erratic behavior of Uday Hussein. But why? Is there anyone out there who still needs convincing that Uday and his father were both completely out of their minds?

Furthermore, Latif is a psychologically flat protagonist. He's merely an observer and witness to the insanity, and experiences no real character arc. From beginning to end, he stays the same.

Who would like this movie: Anyone looking for intelligent insight on the Middle East will not find it here. A few throwaway lines about Jews and Kuwaitis, and archival footage of the Operation Desert Storm do nothing to add cinematic gravitas.

Also, Latif Yahia's biography, on which this film is based, has been called out as BS. Journalists, those who knew Uday (such as former palace workers), and even the CIA never found any evidence that Uday ever used body doubles.

Violent, shocking, and profane, The Devil's Double is an hour and half of Uday Hussein drinking, shouting, snorting coke, talking about his genitals, or otherwise losing his sh*t for whatever reason. Does that sound like a productive use of your time?

(2 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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