Loosely based on the true story of Latif Yahia, a former Iraqi soldier who was forced to become the body-double for Saddam Hussein’s psychotic son Uday, The Devil’s Double is a thrilling, revolting, yet consistently fascinating watch. Although rooted in the real, the film is presented as an all-guns-blazing gangster drama that evokes memories of that unforgettable Al Pacino starrer Scarface.
Set in Baghdad in the late eighties, during the build-up to the 1990 Gulf War, the film stars Dominic Cooper as Iraqi lieutenant Latif who is summoned by his former classmate Uday (also played by Cooper) who he is unfortunate enough to somewhat resemble. Uday asks Latif to be his stand-in, to dress and act like him when the occasion requires, to renounce his own identity, and to immerse himself into his new role. In exchange, Latif can share everything that belongs to Uday – his expensive clothes, his fancy cars, the debauched lifestyle… The catch is Latif can’t say no. If he does, Uday will have his family killed.
Left with no choice, Latif accepts his duties but becomes increasingly disgusted by Uday’s shocking behavior, which includes everything from picking underage schoolgirls off the street and raping them, to openly killing one of his father’s trusted henchmen at a crowded party. It’s when Latif starts a secret relationship with one of Uday’s mistresses that he finds himself in serious danger.
Treating the film like a lurid thriller, director Lee Tamahori goes for an audacious tone and a breakneck pace, grabbing your attention from the very word go. The violence is visceral and repulsive and yet you can’t help watching, transfixed as you are by Uday’s terrifyingly unpredictable personality. On the flip side, despite a knockout ‘dual’ performance by Dominic Cooper – who plays Uday as a power-crazy psychopath, and Latif as a petrified pawn – The Devil’s Double runs out of steam towards the end, and feels at least fifteen minutes too long.
I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for The Devil’s Double. It’s got a daring central performance, and works well as a thrilling potboiler. Don’t miss it!