The Scoop: 2011 R, directed by Lee Tamahori and starring Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, and Raad Rawi
Tagline: The 80’s were brilliant… if you were in charge.
Summary Capsule: It’s like the Prince and the Pauper but with more blow and whores.
Al’s Review: Coming out of The Devil’s Double, there are a few things you might be feeling. You might be sickened, because the movie focuses relentlessly on a truly messed up individual. You might be intrigued, because everything here is based on a true story but it’s tough to know how much is really accurate. You might be disappointed, because, as a finished product, The Devil’s Double isn’t the fantastic film that you want it to be. If you do sit down to watch The Devil’s Double, however, there is one thing I can promise you: when it’s over, you can tell everybody that you were there when Dominic Cooper blew up and became a gigantic A-list superstar.
The film is the story of two men, both played by Cooper. First is Latif Yahia, a quiet and unassuming Iraqi citizen who loves his family and expects to take over his father’s successful retail business one day. The other is Uday Saddam Hussein, elder son of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and Latif is his spitting image.
Uday has decided he needs protection and enlists Latif at the point of a gun to become his body double. Latif learns to dress, to speak, and to act just like the wildly unstable Uday, even undergoing minor cosmetic surgery to “correct” the slight differences. Latif lives in the same palace, visits the same women, and frequents the same clubs; witnessing up close Uday’s penchant for drugs, disco, and murder. He takes his place giving public speeches and handling day-to-day affairs. He rides shotgun as Uday picks up (or kidnaps) young girls off the street to become his playthings for the evening. However, as Uday grows even crazier and his enemies multiply with the onset of Operation: Desert Storm, Latif realizes that if he keeps playing along, he’s never going to make it out alive.
So, is The Devil’s Double as cool as it sounds? Well, sort of. There’s no doubt that it’s a fun and interesting look at Uday Hussein, who was legendary for his appetites and psychotic whims. It’s got a pretty kickin’ soundtrack to boot, and, as much as I usually hate Lee Tamahori as a director, I think his style meshes pretty well with Uday’s fractured, insane life.*
Also, as advertised, Dominic Cooper is gangbusters in this movie. Between Uday and Latif, I think he appears in every single scene and, in a lot of them, he’s only acting against himself! His Uday is so broad that it could be a caricature if the man wasn’t already so well-documented as being exactly that crazy. As Latif, he is subtle and nuanced, especially in the early scenes where he is still learning to imitate his psychopathic boss. Mark my words, this is a career-making performance and if there’s any justice in Hollywood, Dominic Cooper is going to be a household name sometime real soon.
With all that said, The Devil’s Double is in no way a perfect movie. Wikipedia tells me that the film takes place between 1983 and 1996, yet none of the characters ever show any signs to aging, clothing and hair styles don’t seem to change, and we’re never given any dates onscreen. Honestly, I spent more than a half hour assuming that the film took place in the early 2000s, until we’re shown a presidential address by Bush 41. The soundtrack, which (again) is pretty awesome, seems to be the only indicator that time is passing.
I’m also disappointed that the screenplay doesn’t take more risks. In the nearly-fifteen years that Latif is doubling for Uday, we’re never once shown a scene where Latif is enjoying the fact that he lives in a palace and is waited on hand and foot by beautiful women. We’re never once shown a scene where Latif and Uday actually have a good time together or even share a joke. Latif never stops being a depressed prisoner who is disgusted by the people around him and Uday is never anything other than an intolerable, irredeemable monster. Add all that up, plus the movie’s final scene, which is way too convenient to be anything other than a screenwriter’s imagination, and I can’t help thinking that the performances in this film are just far, far better than the script they sprang from.
So, I really am glad I got to see The Devil’s Double. It’s cool and interesting and right up my alley, yet it’s a movie I never would have picked out on my own. It’s got plenty of flaws and ultimately doesn’t quite reach the heights I wish it did, but so many things in the film feel right that I can’t help recommending it as something you won’t regret checking out.
- I love Saddam playing tennis vs. Saddam
- Wow, those George HW Bush presidential addresses really take me back.
- Uday has gold-plated pistols! Awesome!
- Does it seem odd to anyone else that practically every single person in the movie knows that Latif isn’t Uday? What’s the point of a body double if you go around telling everybody who he is?
Uday: Didn’t you once paint a picture of my father? Do you still have it?
Latif: I gave it to you.
Uday: Hmm. I have an awful feeling I told him I did it myself.
Munem: Uday has chosen you. You belong to him.
Latif: You are asking me to… extinguish myself.
Latif: He is insane. You know it, Munem. He’s insane. You turn a blind eye. You have no choice; I understand that. You’re a good man in a bad job.
Saddam Hussein: I should have gelded him at birth.
Sarrab: He’ll tire of you. He tires of everything.
Qusay: He didn’t fool me, my brother.
Uday: You can tell? How?
Qusay: For one thing he’s sober, and, second, he’s not foaming at the mouth.
Uday: Allahu Akbar? Allah gives me nothing. Everything I want I just take for myself.
Latif: Go on. Put a bullet in my head.
Uday: Never. I love you too much.
Latif: You don’t love me. You love Uday.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Donnie Brasco
- The Last King ofScotland