Film Review: The Devil’s Double

Set your expectations to outlandish, and The Devil’s Double is a raucously enjoyable ride. Based on Latif Yahia’s memoirs, the film is outlandish in its depictions, but compelling all the same.

Uday, the oldest son of Saddam Hussein, requires a body double on the cusp of the Gulf War. His henchmen have found Latif Yahia, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Uday. With his family being threatened, Latif is forced to be Uday’s double. Fixated on his new toy, Uday leads Yatif into his glamorous Bagdad world, which is fraught with danger…

Lee Tamahori’s film is driven by the character of Uday Hussein. It is not a biopic in the purest sense; the film concentrates on the relationship between Uday and Latif at a very specific time instead. The film is not too focussed on historical events, choosing instead to focus on the protagonists in a somewhat sheltered existence. Nonetheless, there are a few interludes of actual news footage from the period which reminds viewers of the facts and gives the action some context.

With Uday having died several years ago, the filmmakers have the freedom to depict him as they want without consequence. With the screenplay based on Yahia’s novel and from what is known about Saddam’s son, the film appears rooted in truth. The Devil’s Double goes full throttle with its depiction of Uday. Whilst there is no doubt that he was a larger than life character, the film is no holds barred in its depiction of the less than savoury aspects of his life.

The film portrays Uday as a violent psychopath with dictator tendencies, no doubt inherited from his father. Often events are depcited from Yahia’s point of view; his normality ensures that the audience can relate to him and empathise with the character in the madness that surrounds him.

The Devil’s Double is a visually engorging film. Tamahori does not shy away from depicting the visceral. Elsewhere, acts of violence are alluded to. The film can be gratuitous but is not exploitative. The soundtrack is fantastic; giving the best indication of the period the film is set in.

Dominic Cooper does a great job in the dual role of Uday and Latif. Cooper differentiates the characters by giving two very separate performances. The action change in Latif is a bit odd, but Cooper seems to nail the Uday’s mannerisms.

The film could easily have been trimmed by ten minutes or so. Nevertheless, The Devil’s Double is an entertaining indulgence in garish gratuity.