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The Devil's Double

3

Dominic Cooper’s being driven Hussein.

The Devil's Double review

You get two Dominic Coopers for the price of one in Lee Tamahori’s latest, a fact-based thriller about a man who spent four years being the ‘fiday’ (double) of Saddam Hussein’s deranged son Uday.

That much is corroborated, both by public record and by double Latif Yahia himself, a former schoolmate of Uday’s who would later flee Iraq and has since settled in the West. The Devil’s Double, however, uses it as a mere springboard, morphing Latif’s very real dilemma into a lurid and extremely violent portrait of power’s capacity to corrupt absolutely.

There are links here cinematically with Downfall or The Last King Of Scotland, films that also presented insider looks at dictators’ wacky ways.

Yet Tamahori also references such sprawling crime sagas as Scarface and GoodFellas in his depiction of Uday as a trigger-happy gangster given to killing indiscriminately, raping schoolgirls and snorting cocaine off a gold dagger.

It’s a gift of a role for Cooper: a cackling, psychotic live-wire with the morals of Caligula, the wardrobe of a pimp and the libido of Pepe Le Pew. “Whatever I want I take for myself!” he shrugs, shortly before despoiling a bride on her wedding day.

Yet the Mamma Mia! man is less sure-footed when it comes to Latif, a tabula rasa who – knowing his family will be murdered if he does not comply – is largely required to stand by with ever-mounting disgust.

Writer Michael Thomas attempts to counteract Yahia’s inherent passivity by having him improbably fall for his master’s mistress (Ludivine Sagnier) and, even more improbably, take arms against his heartless oppressors.

This is not sufficient, alas, to make him a presence in a film that’s far more interested in the devil than his doppelgänger.

On the subject of doubles, Malta offers an excellent approximation of Baghdad while the split-screen trickery is often undetectable.

Verdict:

Cooper’s Uday to remember is enough to make Lee Tamahori’s blend of fact and fantasy highly watchable. But it’s more for Tony Montana fans than those after a more balanced account of Saddam’s shame.

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User Reviews

    • jolopity

      Aug 11th 2011, 22:45

      3

      I went with a couple of friends to see this film last night, and I really hadn't bothered to read up on it, in large part due to the marketing for the film. Alone the poster makes it look like a blingin anthem to the rich, psychotic, ganster lifestyle (my street talk is c**p - sorry!) and it really isn't!!! You seriously feel terrified for Latif, and you feel seriously unstable when Uday is about. Dominic Cooper plays both parts fantastically! It gives you some great (and hopefully an extremely exaggerated) look at what life was like for the both of them. I'm guessing it's not too far from the truth though =/ So I totally recommend this film. Definitely worth your time. 3.5/5 from me.

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