Ritzy, gaudy and glittery are not usually words to describe Baghdad, but “The Devil’s Double” does an excellent job of illustrating a lifestyle in the Iraqi capital that most people do not have, unless they were a part of Saddam Hussein’s family.
The film tells the story of an Iraqi soldier named Latif Yahia, who is kidnapped and groomed to be the double for Hussein’s son, Uday, a vile, unstable and monstrous man who ruled the city with his gun and money.
While the story is fictional, its plot is based on true events. The audience peers inside the life of a powerful public figure who rapes a bride on her wedding day and takes schoolgirls from the streets and dumps their bodies outside the city. This same figure disembowels his father’s best friend with a knife. In real life, according to Roger Ebert, Uday used an electric carving knife.
Disturbing and grotesque as it is, the movie is surprisingly uneventful. Not filmed in a documentary or investigative style, the movie only entertains, if blood, guts and inappropriate schoolgirl scenes are grounds for entertainment.
Dominic Cooper, the British actor (not Arab) playing both Latif and Uday, does an outstanding job of playing a double role. As Latif, he is a commendable man, doing a service for his country and showing contempt for Uday. He even goes as far as to stand up to him, threatening to kill himself when Uday crosses the lines of morality, which happens a lot.
As Uday, Cooper is a drunk, cocaine-snorting, womanizing mama’s boy who has to have his way no matter what. Uday acts as a child, throwing fits when he cannot have certain women or threatening to kill individuals who speak ill of him.
Cooper plays both roles effortlessly and with the help of flawless computer imaging. It is difficult to tell the two vastly differently characters apart.
Other characters include Daddy Hussein, who also has a double but makes only a handful of appearances, and Uday’s lover, Sarrab. The movie never gives much credit to this woman nor explains her purpose for being there —she just is. In the end, Sarrab does not add anything to the story.
There were times in the movie that felt like they were on the verge of being memorable. All the necessary parts were there: a love interest, a raging villain and the inherently good man wanting to bring justice to a lawless chaos.
The end excites the audience most when the credits roll and say that Uday was killed in 2003 by U.S. Special Forces.
Hussein is not portrayed in a totally negative light. Despite his own monstrosities and terrors, he gives the movie a dose of explanation to Uday’s insanity, telling his son, “I should have killed you the day you were born.”