DVD Review: The Devil's Double
Release Date: November 22, 2011
Distributor: Lions Gate
· Lee Tamahori
· Dominic Cooper
· Ludivine Sagnier
· Raad Rawi
by R.J. Carter
Published: November 22, 2011
When I first saw the promotional art for "The Devil's Double," I was certain it was not for me. It looked like another hip-hop gangsta rumble, and those just aren't something I enjoy watching. Fortunately, I turned it over and read the description, and found that it was far more fascinating than it initially appeared.
Dominic Cooper plays a double role in this film as Latif, an Iraqi soldier in the Iran/Iraq war, who is singled out by Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, to be his impersonator when needed. But being the body double to the country's first son is far more dangerous than just standing up in public where he could get shot. Latif is fully immersed in the lifestyle of Uday Hussein -- a lifestyle that is largely one of torture and rape, particularly of schoolgirls he picks up off the street. But Latif feels he has little choice: his family has already been told that he is dead for him to perform in this role, and any attempt to get away will lead to his actually being killed.
Eventually, accompanied by Uday's girlfriend Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier), Latif transcends his mortality and takes the battle straight to Uday. These climactic scenes are chilling -- in fact, seeing the transformation of the desperate Latif into a single-minded killer is probably more chilling than some of the psychopathic outbursts of the satyriatic Uday.
Cooper's dual performance is extraordinary. Despite the fact that he's playing a lookalike, there is no difficulty at all for the audience in distinguishing Uday from Latif; the way Cooper talks, his facial expressions, the way he carries himself -- all work together to create two distinctly different people.
Based on the true story of Latif Yahia, Director Lee Tamahori comments that the writers definitely took some liberties and inserted some fiction, such as the imagined relationship between Uday and his mother, as well as the framing of the story to portray the Hussein family as a sort of (but not quite) parallel to the Corleone crime family (with Uday as Sonny and Qusay as Michael). (One hopes the writers also exaggerated Uday's personality, as his outbursts put to shame the antics of fictional psychotics like the Joker.)
Bonus features on this release include, in addition to the audio commentary with Tamahori and the featurette "True Crime Family" which makes the Corleone allusions, a behind-the-scenes look at filming with Dominic Cooper, and "The Real Devil's Double" which is a fascinating interview with Latif Yahia himself about his first childhood encounters with classmate Uday Hussein and where he was when the news came in that Uday and Qusay had been killed.
Overall, "The Devil's Double" is replete with torture, nudity, and pervasive language, all of which serves to frame the atrocities committed by an amoral, corrupted political child who bedeviled his own people. This is a side of the Iraq story you must see.