Thursday 15 September 2011

Movie Review: The Devil's Double

There are two aspects to this film. The film as a film: the screenplay, the editing and the acting. Then there is the slice of history, something we have seen on the television and read in the headlines.

The story is about Latif Yahia who played a fedai or body double for Uday Hussein, the eldest son of Saddam Hussein. Considering all that has taken place in Iraq, the invasion of Kuwait, the two Gulf Wars, the hanging of Saddam, etc., there is more than enough material for a dozen books. However here we have a story, more of a behind the scenes story that I myself was unaware of. Uday Hussein turns out to be a grown up spoiled brat who has ultimate power thanks to his father and wields that power like a psychopath. Reading down the list of crimes committed by Uday makes Hannibal Lecter seem like a Boy Scout. Whether it's true or not, there's a scene in the movie where Saddam himself is confronted with the depravity of his son and says, "I should have killed you the day you were born." As the film goes on, I had to ask myself why his father didn't do just that.

Uday is an out of control drug addict and sex fiend on a power trip. He picks up school girls off the street for sex and in one case, kills her and has his body guards dump the body outside of Baghdad. He takes a fancy to the bride at a wedding and takes her away for sex. She commits suicide by jumping off the balcony of his hotel room. This just goes on and on with Latif Yahia, the double, forced to watch this. Why does he put up with it? Uday has threatened to kill his entire family if he doesn't. Reading the Wikipedia article on Uday provides excellent background material to the film but makes you wonder how such evil can go on in the world.

The main actor, Dominic Cooper did double duty as both Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia. He is superb, capturing the insanity of Uday and the reasonableness of Latif forced into the world of a psychopath. From what I understand, the film makers did have some poetic licence with the screenplay, supposedly fictionalizing parts of the story from Latif Yahiya's own book. Nevertheless, the film interjects news footage of the invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent 1st Gulf War to portray the politically unstable bizarre life in Baghdad for the Hussein leadership. I couldn't take my eyes off of Cooper as either Uday or Latif; this man is a highlight of the film.

Final Word
Rotten Tomatoes gave the film 52% although I see Roger Ebert accorded it three stars out of four. I would have to vote with Mr. Ebert finding the film far better that just 52%. Okay, it's not an Oscar picture but the story is both horrifying and fascinating like driving by a traffic accident. You just can't help looking.

I would recommend preparing to see the film by reading some materials on Uday; the Wikipedia article for instance. The film puts a face on the various stories of the crimes committed by Saddam's eldest son and I can still see Cooper's excellent performance of ultimate power gone mad. The world is a better place with Uday gone but we still have this film. And oh what a story it tells!


Rotten Tomatoes: The Devil's Double: 52%
Originally, the rating was 57% but has come down with more reviews.

Wikipedia: The Devil's Double
The Devil's Double is a 2011 drama film directed by Lee Tamahori and starring Dominic Cooper, Philip Quast, Ludivine Sagnier and Raad Rawi. It was released on January 22, 2011 at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was released in limited theaters on July 29, 2011 by Lionsgate and Herrick Entertainment.

Wikipedia: Uday Hussein
Uday Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti (18 June 1964 – 22 July 2003) was the eldest son of Saddam Hussein from his first wife, Sajida Talfah. He was the brother of Qusay Hussein. Uday was for several years seen as the heir apparent of his father; however, Uday lost his place in the line of succession due to his erratic behavior and troubled relationship with his father and brother. Following the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, he was killed along with his brother by a secretive combined Special Forces Task Force (Task Force 20) during a brief gunfight in Mosul.

Wikipedia: Latif Yahia
Dr. Latif Yahia al-Salihi (born June 14, 1964) is an Iraqi born author, blogger, Ph.D in International Law, and former military officer in the Iran-Iraq War. Latif was forcibly recruited to be the body double of Saddam Hussein's eldest son Uday Hussein.

official movie web site: The Devil's Double

Roger Ebert - Aug 3/2011
The Devil's Double
3 stars out of 4.


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