Film Review: The Devil’s Double (2011)

“Latif Yahia is dead. He died in Iran. May God have mercy on him. Now I am Uday Saddam Hussein” 

I worry for Dominic Cooper’s movie career – since heading over to Hollywood his film choices don’t seem to reflect the good actor theatre audiences in the UK know him to be, yet he hasn’t been involved in any big enough flops to have given up on his dream so we continue to see him in dreck like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Need for Speed. Things looked a little brighter for The Devil’s Double, in which he actually delivers two strong performances, but with Die Another Day’s Lee Tamahori directing, the film is much less effective than it could have been.

Son of Saddam, Uday Hussein was a genuinely terrible human being, pampered beyond belief, psychotic in his tendencies and paranoid about being assassinated so former schoolmate Latif Yahia who bore a passing resemblance, was forced to become his body double. Cooper discharges both roles well – Uday’s predilection for the depraved is accompanied with a sickening giggle and Latif’s soul-sickness is barely hidden as he is forced onto the fringes of a decadent world of which he can never be a part nor do anything about.

Things change when a woman gets involved of course, Ludivine Sagnier’s Sarrab is Uday’s lover but soon falls for Latif, thus setting in motion the wheels of considerable change. The main problem lies in the murky ground between truth and fiction that Tamahori’s film occupies, the director revels in the louche grandeur of this gangster-style world that he efficiently evoked but there is no sense of responsibility alongside it, little recognition of the huge damage such a regime can wreak on a nation, indeed, what one man can inflict on so many. 

This ambivalence makes it ultimately quite hard to watch, voyeuristic even as it skates over the potentially fascinating dynamics of recent Iraqi history and the psychological impact of being someone’s body double for cheap thrills and irresponsible violence.

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