The Devil's Double (18)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/08/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 108 mins

Lurid, entertaining thriller that succeeds thanks to some gleeful excesses and a pair of terrific performances from Dominic Cooper, though it's safe to say that the events depicted in the films should be taken with a pinch of salt.

What's it all about?
Directed by Lee Tamahori, The Devil's Double is (very) loosely based on the true story of Latif Yahia, who was involved in the film's development. Set in 1987 Baghdad, the film stars Dominic Cooper as Latif, an Iraqi soldier who's forced to become the body-double for Saddam Hussein's psychotic son Uday (also Dominic Cooper, only with funny teeth and a high-pitched voice).

After undergoing plastic surgery, Latif begrudgingly accepts his duties but he becomes increasingly disgusted by Uday's power-crazed behaviour, whether it's constant drug abuse, raping underage schoolgirls or disembowelling Saddam's own henchmen in full view at a crowded party. However, when Latif falls for Uday's mistress Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier), their secret relationship places them both in grave danger.

The Good
Dominic Cooper delivers his two best performances to date as Uday and Latif, clearly relishing his role as the cackling, insane Hussein while providing a strong, distinctive counterpoint as the brooding, intense doppelganger whose own identity is gradually eroded away (his family are lead to believe Latif has been killed). With such a strong pair of performances at the centre, the supporting cast don't get much of a look-in, but there's good work from Philip Quast as both Saddam and his own double (a tennis match between them provides one of the film's best throwaway moments), while Jamie Harding gets perhaps the film's best line as Uday's more sensible brother Qusay (“I knew it wasn't you because he was sober and he wasn't frothing at the mouth”).

The double effects are flawless throughout and Tamahori orchestrates some terrific scenes, the most excessive of which are clear (and deliberate) echoes of films like DePalma's Scarface. The film is also extremely suspenseful, purely because Uday himself is so terrifyingly unpredictable.

The Bad
That's not to say the film is without problems. For one thing, Sagnier is both awkward and miscast, while the film runs out of steam towards the end and is around fifteen minutes too long as a result. Similarly, the script is too content to remain essentially pantomime at heart and isn't really interested in exploring ideas of identity, despite flirting with those issues by hinting that Latif is losing himself in his “performance”.

Worth seeing?
Despite its flaws, The Devil's Double is an enjoyable, entertainingly lurid thriller with terrific and potentially award-worthy dual performances from Dominic Cooper. Recommended.

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Content updated: 18/10/2017 12:17

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