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DFI Film Review: The Devil's Double (2011)

Mar 10, 2011

Written by Patricia Donohue, Programming Operations, DFI

Director: Lee Tamahori
Genre: Action, Biography, Drama
Starring: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Raad Rawi
Year: 2011

Based on a book and a true story, ‘The Devil’s Double’ tells the account of Latif Yahia, the man who had the misfortune of looking like Saddam Hussein’s famously demented son, Uday. Forced to become Uday’s double, Latif must leave his old life behind and become one of the most fascinating and terrifying men in Middle Eastern history.

Latif has no choice. If he doesn’t pretend to be Uday then his family dies. And since the insane, power-hungry Uday wants to be just like Daddy and have a doppelganger people can assassinate instead of him, as well as a copy of his inflated ego to follow him around, there’s no turning back. What Uday wants, Uday gets. And this is proved over and over again as the film goes on and we get a taste of absolute power with absolutely no consequences.

The book is better.

Now I know that books are usually always better than the movie adaptations but in this case I can’t say it enough. The book is better. It’s not as if it’s a classic or even exceptionally written. It’s just the movie missed the mark.

While it’s worth watching because it’s entertaining, that’s all it really is. What I loved most about the book was learning what Latif had to go through to become, and remain, Uday. They do show this in the film, just not as well. The film seemed more about showing “crazy” Uday than it did about the most compelling part of the story – Latif.

You see Uday through Latif’s eyes and transformation. You see that Latif never really accepts his role as the son of Saddam. But mostly, you see Uday being an evil, unstable, unpredictable nutjob.

The book goes into more detail about the transformation; about Latif’s state of mind. He undergoes plastic surgery and wears fake teeth. He watches hours upon hours of torture tapes. He is constantly tested in life or death situations to see if people would buy him as Uday. He is both loved and looked down upon by a very scary man. It shows an outsider on the inside, being present without actually being a part of it. And most importantly, the book makes you understand just how incredibly doomed Latif is…forever.

While I appreciated Dominic Cooper’s ability to play both Uday and Latif; to switch between characters and make it seem like two different actors, I found the whole perspective a little flat. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate this movie. It’s entertaining and easy to watch if you can handle excessive violence and want an idea of what the Hussein’s were like. But if my favourite part of the film was watching Saddam’s matching black classic Mercedes speed throughout the streets in a kind of synchronized ballet, then it’s not saying much.

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