THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE (film review) – based on the real life of a man who was chosen to be the body double for Uday Hussein, the eldest son of Iraqi dictator, Saddam, THE DEVIL’s DOUBLE is a tour de force for its star, British actor Dominic Cooper.
Like SCARFACE and CASINO as if set in Iraq, this indie film takes place just after the Iran-Iraq War ended, in 1988. Saddam Hussein and his family are like a paranoid mob family, ruling Iraq with a brutal iron hand and beyond intrusive personal security.
Cooper portrays both Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia in a complex emotional and technical role for both the actor and the director. Uday is a psychotic prince, short tempered and abusive to anyone in his way. He watches torture and rape videos from Iraqi prisons to get off. He picks up under-aged school girls to rape and kill. He beats his father’s officers the same way he beats the house staff.
Into this crazed world of excess, Uday recruits his old high school classmate, Latif, to be his body double. Latif, a quiet and unhappy person, has no choice in the matter since Uday openly threatens Latif’s family. He is not allowed to use the phone. He is not allowed to tell his family where he is. He is a captive, attending state functions as Uday’s double to mislead any assassination attempts.
The two young men may be physically twins, but Latif is slowly eroding with despair as he witnesses atrocity after atrocity.
The film’s biggest flaw is a script that occasionally deviates from the autobiography Yahia wrote as well as from historical facts. It’s sometimes very obvious that the screenwriter decided to make Latif a long-suffering saint and hero, when the historical facts are gripping enough.
Director Lee Tamahori – best known for directing the James Bond flick, DIE ANOTHER DAY – deftly drives the drama forward against a background of impending war, when Iraq decided to invade Kuwait in 1990. The clouds of war only add to Uday’s paranoia.
Dominic Cooper is *this* close to breaking out, probably best known for his buff bod in the film adaptation of MAMMA MIA or the blink-and-you’ll-miss-him role as Howard Stark in CAPTAIN AMERICA. It’s a shame that bigger films with bigger publicity budgets will be able to lobby Academy voters, because it’s Cooper’s dual starring role that is the richest and most complex of 2011.