Directed by Lee Tamahori. Starring Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Raad Rawi.
Have you seen the 1993 film Dave with Kevin Kline? It’s about an average Joe who’s recruited by the government in a controversial situation to ‘play’ the President of the United States since he looks exactly like him. Body doubles. Saddam Hussein apparently had one (so is he really dead?) and his son Uday Hussein did too. His name is Latif Yahia (Cooper) and this film is based on his surreal experience as the dictator’s son’s doppelganger.
The poster of the film looks pretty tacky, with Dominic Cooper in his Uday avatar completely in gold on a gold throne. But that’s just to give you an idea of the kind of opulence and decadence the spoilt brat with a penchant for fast cars, guns and young girls had. Latif is coerced into standing in for Uday at military and other engagements while the eccentric playboy indulges in various forms of debauchery and treachery (like raping and killing young school girls).
Ferrari’s, Armani suits, Rolex watches and bikini-clad girls are not the images you’d conjure up thinking about Iraq. This film starts just before allied forces invaded the country to end their tyranny and confiscate the elusive weapons of mass destruction (real footage has been used). But the film isn’t really about the war. It’s about the depravity of this one man amidst chaos and despair. He thinks nothing of sleeping with a newly wed bride, physically abusing her and then driving her to suicide on her wedding day. His polar opposite body double, Latif, is repulsed by his behavior. But he doesn’t let it slide admonishing Uday when he can. He knows he’s valuable, ‘I love you’, says the sexually deviant Uday to Latif, so he can’t really kill him off.
Dominic Cooper (Howard Stark in Captain America: The First Avenger) is absolutely superb. From stark raving mad (Uday) to brooding and steely (Latif), he’s proven his range as an actor remarkably well. Raad Rawi as Munem, Uday’s wise advisor, realises he’s working for a mad man and even helps Latif evade death. He’s subtle and very convincing in the role.
The Devil’s Double is brilliantly shot, there’s a yellow hue to it that almost gives it a CSI: Miami feel, it has the gravitas as well as an entertainment value that could easily have been replaced by a bland documentary-styled portrayal of Latif’s memoirs in the hands of some other director.