Lionsgate // 2011 // 109 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 17th, 2011
A fictionalized version of real life horror.
I can still recall the moment when Saddam Hussein was captured. It was late at night when I read the news on the internet. I called my father (and woke him up in Arizona) because I couldn't believe it; his reaction was just as stunned as I mine. I remember thinking it was the end of an era of madness (or, at least this guy's madness...more madness would be on the way). Although I knew who Saddam was and some of the crimes he committed, I have to admit to not knowing a lot about his backstory, much less his family or children's history. The Devil's Double helps fill in some of those gaps, especially for the maniacal Uday, Saddam's twisted and loose cannon son.
Based on a real life tale, The Devil's Double focuses in on two men: Uday Hussein (Dominic Cooper, Iron Man 2), the mad-as-a-hatter offspring of Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, and Latif (also played by Cooper), a mild mannered Iraqi citizen plucked from obscurity to become Uday's body double -- a job that holds danger at every turn. As Latif integrates himself in Uday's life, he finds a deep abyss of sadistic self-importance in Uday's sexual conquests, drug fueled nightclub visits, and homicidal tendencies. Latif quickly learns he has one of two options: attempt to get out of this new life, or become a casualty of Uday's brazen and unpredictable death march.
Evil comes giggling like a school girl. That's what the The Devil's Double teaches its viewers. Real life can be more horrific than fiction, and Uday Hussein certainly proved that. Here was a man who embodied total indulgence and terror, the poster boy for what happens when you sell your soul to the devil for women, drugs, and absolute power. Like a modern day Scarface who never had to work for his wealth, Uday was an uncontrollable psychotic who would kill's one of his father's best friends just as easily as make himself a baloney sandwich (encrusted in diamonds, knowing Uday). I didn't know much about the character of Uday Hussein going into The Devil's Double and coming out I feel I know the man well enough to be happy he no longer roams the face of this earth.
The other side of The Devil's Double is the story of Latif, a gentle guy groomed to be Uday's double at events, parties, political rallies, and assassination attempts (he escaped death more often than Houdini). From the movie's point of view (which must be taken with a grain of salt, since the filmmakers admit to much fictionalizing), Latif was a good man with little choice in his newfound career. Quiet and absorbing, Latif was the flipside of Uday -- caring, pensive, and thoughtful.
Dominic Cooper gives a tour-de-force performance as Uday/Latif, achieving the impossible by making each character its own entity. Cooper's Uday is such a whirlwind of destruction and entitlement, and Latif so mild mannered and scared by comparison, you never see them as one in the same. It's a testament to Cooper's talent that he was able to make me believe I was watching two separate entities, even though I knew it was the same man playing both parts. If The Devil's Double has a weak spot, it's that Uday is so wild and unpredictable that he makes Latif all but boring by comparison. Cooper instills Uday with such a hyperactive, psychotic personality you can't take your eyes off of him.
Uday was a man of great excess and a temperament the likes of which King Kong never experienced. In one of the film's most gruesome and explosive scenes, Uday walks up to one of his father's best friends at a lavish party, graphically hacks him open with a machete, and shoots him point blank in the face. This is followed by Saddam meeting his drugged-up son at a hospital, nearly cutting off his extremities while Uday vomits all over himself. It's scenes like these that makes you realize what monsters the Hussein clan were. I don't think the movie was meant to make us reflect, but it really does show what can happen when you allow your life to be taken over by worldly pleasures. Uday lived by the sword and died by the sword, which may be the best lesson one can take from a movie like this.
I didn't enjoy The Devil's Double as much as was enthralled by it. The movie wouldn't contain half of the emotional punch, if you didn't know the story was based on real life. Since we know Uday was as crazy as Cooper portrays him, The Devil's Double takes on a whole new level of insanity. Director Lee Tamahori -- whose resume includes such popcorn action fare as the James Bond film Die Another Day and the Ice Cube vehicle xXx: State of the Union -- doesn't overwhelm viewers with too many visuals or fancy action scenes. Where there are guns and bullets, they aren't the main crux of the film. The story is really about two men dealing with each other's personalities. To that end, The Devil's Double makes for a fascinating movie experience.
The Devil's Double (Blu-ray) is presented in 2.35:1/1080p high definition widescreen. The image looks excellent; so good, in fact, there were times where I occasionally spotted some obvious technological 'mattes' and other visual effects whose seams reared their ugly heads. Aside of that, Lionsgate's Blu-ray sports deep color palates and a very clear picture. The soundtrack is presented in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, utilizing the surrounds nicely when the need arises. The movie is often front heavy, during the dialogue scenes, but kicks into high gear whenever the guns come into play (which is often and generously). A very good sound mix for a fairly low budget film. Also included on this disc are English and Spanish subtitles.
While The Devil's Double isn't bursting at the seams with bonus features, there are a few interesting supplements including an informative (if somewhat dry) commentary track by director Lee Tamahori, and three featurettes ("Double Down with Dominic Cooper," "The Real Devil's Double," and "True Crime Family") that take a look at all aspects of the film including story, historical context, and an interview with the man who was actually Uday's double. Also included with this package are some trailers for other Lionsgate films.
The Devil's Double won't go down in history as the greatest gangster film ever made (which is essentially what it is), but it should give Dominic Cooper a boost and chance to continue showing off his acting chops on screen. This Blu-ray sports great audio and video presentations and just enough bonus features to make fans happy.
The Devil's Double is worth your time, if only for Cooper's expert
take on two fascinating characters.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Portuguese)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Official Site