The Devil’s Double

Black Prince Indemnity

         
 

29 July 2011| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Nasty underside of history thrust with hot sudden violence, but all so interesting. For pop commercial entertainment illuminating the Gulf War, The Devil’s Double is an engrossing true story entertainment of how Iraq army lieutenant Latif Yahia was forced to become the body double for Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, also by moniker the “Black Prince.” Prone to snorting coke rocks, chasing easy women, “seducing” unwilling girls, and showing off his Porsches or Ferraris, the unconscionable Uday is a malicious and psychotic S.O.B. The script and direction has the guts to go mercilessly vicious, too, although I would have cut a clip or two of video torture (you can’t double-cross Saddam or Uday and get away with it). Latif is given luxuries and per diems at his disposal, but he is in angst over his immoral life while Uday spoon feeds decadence to him. I really thought for 15 minutes that the two characters were played by two different actors, then it dawned at me with closer camera inspection that they were both Dominic Cooper. It’s a terrific double performance. The film itself is shot in hot yellows and oranges, with incensed camerawork.

Rising star Cooper (“The Duchess,” “Captain America”) has the epochal gift of settling in any time period or nationality as needed, and here he’s convincing as two people often in the same scene thanks to fusion camera effects. Cooper as Latif is a good-hearted Iraqi clinging onto righteous sanity but he is stock with self-defensive brawn, he is no lay-down patsy. Cooper also as Uday has much in common with the barbarism of Al Pacino’s Scarface, easily turning on his own friends. Uday cannot butcher Latif so easily because he needs him unscathed, although violence against your own friends and neighbors is common. Even Saddam brutally punishes his own son. Philip Quast as the world’s most hated dictator Saddam has the right monstrous pitch, although I wish the actor was more reptillian-skinned.

The safety of Latif’s family is at stake if he bails, not to mention punishment by torture chair/bed/strappado devices. His one friend is the vixen beauty Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier) whose sexual escapades are often on borrow. After build-up of trust, Latif figures that Sarrab wants out, too. Plans to flee basically hang on the threshold of how much Latif can possibly take before he’s had enough. Copious ensuing scenes are devoted to Latif attempting to reason with an unreasonable monster. I wish the film would have gone into Latif’s public stand-in performances more, although at least it is depicted. I also wondered as to why for the sake of self-preservation he didn’t give himself a haircut and make-over in a pivotal scene where anonymity was possible.

The production created a plausible and atmospheric Iraq, so good that I did not want to know where it was actually filmed because my brain and higher senses simply bought it. The director of the film is Lee Tamahori who made the James Bond entry “Die Another Day” (2002) and the brilliant domestic family drama “Once Were Warriors” (1994) which focused in on a rough and tumble New Zealand family that is almost always intoxicated. What Tamahori gives this film is a stylish and decadently immersed look. “The Devil’s Double” has better cinematography than most of the movies that grossed over $100 million dollars this summer such as “Pirates of the Caribbean 4,” “Super 8,” “Transformers 3,” “Thor,” “The Green Lantern,” “The Hangover Part II,” and probably a few others. I think that observation means something.

108 Minutes. Rated R.

HISTORICAL DRAMA / BLOODLUST / THURSDAY NIGHT AFTER THE KIDS ARE ASLEEP VIEWING

Film Cousins: “Scarface” (1983); “Once Were Warriors” (1994); “The Man with the Iron Mask” (1998); “House of Saddam” (2008).

 

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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