The Devil’s Double (2011)
Starring: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Raad Rawi, Phillip Quast
Written by: Michael Thomas
Director: Lee Tamahori
(18) Running Time: 108 minutes
First of all, ignore the Scarface comparison. The trailers and posters have it quoted as ‘the Scarface of Arabia’. While it does contain scenes of excess and someone in power going off the rails, this isn’t what the film is about. Based on the life of Latif Yahia, an Iraqi soldier, who is ‘chosen’ by Uday Hussain, the son ofIraq’s leader Saddam, to be his body double. Latif went to school with Uday and looks very similar to him, which is why Uday sent for him. Initially turning down the ‘offer’ to be Uday’s double, Latif is sent to a prison to ‘sleep on it’ where he is told his family will be sent to Abu Graib if he does not comply. With no choice but to go along with it, Latif has to undergo cosmetic surgery and is announced as ‘officially dead’. Forced to go wherever Uday goes, as well as making public appearances as him, Latif is thrust into a world where life has no value and women are mere objects.
A lot of the film details how much of monster Uday Hussain was. Always intoxicated with drink and drugs, sleeping with anyone he chooses, including school girls, and generally going insane. Naturally, Latif is appalled with what he is witnessing but can do nothing but sit back and watch Uday spiral further and further out of control.
It’s a very interesting story and an uncomfortable insight into the life of a monster, whose own tyrannical father was getting fed up with him. Dominic Cooper is fantastic juggling the parts of both Uday and Latif, really creating a lingering sense of unease whenever on screen as Uday. I would go as far as to compare him with Heath Ledger’s Joker. A towering presence on screen, and upon first viewing, you were really unsure what monstrous act the villain would commit next. The film does this really well without glamorising his actions, unlike the aforementioned Scarface. Thanks to the Scarface comparisons, I was expecting Latif to embrace the lifestyle thrust upon him with it ending badly for him as a result of his excess. You will be disappointed if this is what you want to get from this film. There is a lot of character exposition, with most of the action being news footage from the Gulf War and Iraq invading Kuwait. That’s not to say there isn’t the occasional gun fight, but this usually when there is an attempt on Uday’s/Latif’s life.
Then why the 18 rating? There are plenty of graphic scenes, particularly when Uday loses his cool. Without wanting to spoil things, there is one scene where, let’s say he recreates the scene in Empire Strikes Back, where Han Solo makes a sleeping bag out of a Taun Taun, only with a fat obnoxious guy who decides to mock him.
Overall, The Devil’s Double is a gripping, unsettling drama, which I thoroughly enjoyed, however I felt I was mislead by a marketing campaign that makes it out to be something it isn’t. It is also a brilliant showcase for the fantastic Dominic Cooper, who I admired as Howard Stark in the Captain America movie, although that was just a supporting roll. Here he dominates the screen time and makes every second count.
[pt-filmtitle]The Devil’s Double[/pt-filmtitle]