THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE
Lee Tamahori is a hit and miss director (Along Came a Spider, Die Another Day), but his latest film, The Devil’s Double, is easily his greatest endeavor. Despite maybe a few flaws, this film is stunning due to overwhelming double performance from Dominic Cooper (Mama Mia, Captain America). It’s rare to see a mediocre actor land a part that can so quickly turn a career around; not only that, but in one single film display the type of encompassing range we see here. As far as lead actor performances go, Cooper should be at the very top of the list, but like the best films, hardly anyone saw this.
Like his father Saddam Hussein, Uday Hussein (Cooper), the eccentric son, also had a body double, or a brother as he referred to him. Taken from his everyday life, Latif Yahia (Cooper) is forced to be Uday’s body double and his friendly toy. He demands his cooperation or vows to kill his family. Latif is put through minimal plastic surgery and must wear similar teeth to Uday. Constantly in his presence, Latif witnesses Uday abduct 14 year old school girls, rape them, and then toss their bodies in the desert. The only person Uday respects is his father, who even says he should have killed him at birth. Uninterested in the politics of his country, Uday lives for pleasure and Latif resists as long has he can stand until his good nature insists he find a way out.
I found this film simply brilliant. What we are shown the majority of the time is like something out of a horror film. But everything you see, you believe 100%. The attitudes and customs we heard about for years on the news is fully realized here and Tamahori doesn’t spare the viewer anything. The history of events here is equal to the madness we have seen of Hitler in cinema. It’s chilling and disturbing because it’s so factual, at least according to the novel by Yahia. There is never a dull moment in the film; Tamahori is known for his suspenseful films and this is certainly no different.
The success of this project all depended on who they cast in the lead role, and Dominic Cooper dominates this. The vast contrast between the two characters he is playing is some of the most astonishing acting work I have seen all year. It doesn’t take the audience but seconds to forget both Latif and Uday are played by the same actor. Cooper deserves awards attention for the kind of performance that is all encompassing in every way, but this performance might be too controversial for some voters. Mostly, I don’t think very many people took the time to explore this fantastic film.
Final Thought – Dominic Cooper gives one of 2011’s strongest and most visceral performances.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Michael Woody
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
This film, based on a novel by Latif Yahia, the actual double for Uday Hussein, looks like a documentary. However, it has not been clearly established just how much of the novel is based on fact. (Latif says in an interview that 65-70% of the movie is factual). For some reasons unknown, the book is no longer in print, and existing copies start at $200. In the interview, he claims that the money for the book is donated to charity. Although he has lived in the west for 20 years and is married to an Irish woman, he is resentful of the west for helping set up Saddam Hussein in the first place as a dictator in Iraq, and claims that he has been arrested by the CIA and tortured. He further claims that freedom in the west is just an illusion, that citizens here are just as restricted as they are in Iraq and other countries in the Middle East.
That said, the film supposedly plots the history of Uday Hussein’s recruiting a former classmate, an army lieutenant, to be his double as a means of protection for Uday. That is, the double may go as Uday to places where he could be killed. To increase the two men’s likeness, Latif had to undergo plastic surgery. Latif tried to refuse to give up his own identity, but was forced to comply when Uday threatened not only his life, but his family’s as well.
The actor Dominic Cooper plays both men in the film, and gives a stunning performance for which he is likely to be nominated for acting awards. He says that in the early parts of the film when the two are first meeting, he as Uday wears prosthetics to change his appearance slightly. Then, when Latif has had the surgery, the prosthetics are removed, and the two men look exactly alike. Cooper had to wear “prosthetic rodent-like teeth” to duplicate Uday’s. This is a puzzle for the actor, since Uday could have had implants but chose not to.
If it is even partly a realistic depiction of Uday’s lifestyle, the film is chilling to the bone in its depiction of him as a sadistic, self-indulgent playboy who has not an ounce of sympathy or concern for anyone, except, perhaps, for his mother. He gleefully rapes and kills at will. His father reportedly says that he should have killed him when he was born. Uday thinks nothing of kidnapping young girls on the street or a bride at her wedding, to satisfy his odious appetite. Latif does have his limits as to how far he will go in acquiescing to Uday’s demands, and eventually realizes he has to get away. That, of course, comes at great cost.
The film is well directed by Lee Tomahari, and is one that should be seen (if the viewer can bear to sit through the cruelty) to remind us of how far leaders and their families can go if no limits are ever placed on their power. Although I am skeptical of some of Latif’s claims, it would behoove us to reflect on the freedoms we do enjoy and be mindful of how to preserve them.