Rated: R Reviewed by: Jim Release date: July 29, 2011 Released by: Lions Gate Films
The sadistic son of Saddam Hussein and his daring, dutiful, yet complicit stand-in make up the harsh reality in this chilling, nightmarish biographical drama.
Based on a true story, The Devil's Double stars Dominic Cooper and Ludvine Sagnier, and most titles with devil in it (especially in recent years) haven't fared well at the box-office.
New Zealand's Lee Tamahori (who made a superior, albeit personal film a while back with Once Were Warriors) directs what plays like a gangster film at heart (not of the scope of a Scarface). But one that immerses one into Sadaam's cruel world via a memoir by Latif Yahia (the eponymous character) and a British writer, raising more interesting questions than it attempts to answer. It's not as political as it may seem or indicated during the time between the Iran/Iraq conflict and the first Gulf War (with Kuwait).
Using that backdrop, the sexual, sleazy and violent associated with the extraordinary circumstances of Iraqi Army Lieutenant Latif Yahia coerced into being Uday Hussein comes to life. Especially when the latter has to fulfill his regular PR obligations or his personal safety is dicey. When a simmering Latif acts on his feelings, the alternatives can be very grim indeed.
Suffice to say, Tamahori has made a film not for the faint of heart. The striking twin-like Latif gets down the arrogance and viciousness down as well as expressions and physical mannerisms, as the conscientious soldier has no aspirations to be a part of the current tyrannical system. It all might comes across as too one-dimensional not covering the personal toll from the unprotested atrocities and lacking in moral drama.
Like exiled Cuban criminal turned drug lord Tony Montana, an often imbibed and addled Uday dispenses with anyone who looks to be a foe with a shoot-first attitude. The way he carries on sexually in the palace may call to mind Malcolm McDowell back in the day as fornicating Roman emperor Caligula.
What may be just against dictators like Sadaam in general does seem to relish in the excess of his hyperactive, barbaric son, whether in the abuse or beating of women and wielding of weapons. So, while it's hard to take this gross, giggling rapture Dominic Cooper (currently in Captain America: The First Avenger) maneuvers an unlikely actorly feat of maintaining an individuality to both characters even when Latif 'becomes' Uday.
Unsettling lust and blood-drenched may be more than off-putting to say the least, but The Devil's Double offers some over-the-top visceral thrills. At least there's somewhat of a respite when Latif has the interest of a woman (Sagnier) who sees the wingman of a serf for his quieter more reserved side. Cooper's dignified dexterity into the satanic is a two-for-one showcase that pulls no punches in this dynamic, if dire "Double."
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