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The Devil’s Double

The Devil’s Double: Confusing but Exquisitely Acted Biopic

  • Dominic CooperLudivine Sagnier...
  • Drama
  • Out now
  • Lee Tamahori
reviewed by
Yasmin Shehab
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The Devil’s Double: Confusing but Exquisitely Acted Biopic

Based on a true story, The Devil’s
tells the tale of Latif Yahia (Cooper), a very normal Iraqi soldier who
has the misfortune of being the spitting image of Dictator Saddam Hussein’s
rotten son, Uday. Uday decides to make Latif his double so that Latif can do
all the meets and greets required of a dictator’s son, leaving Uday free to
snort coke, have sex and shoot anyone that gets on his nerves.

Forced to do
Uday’s bidding to save his family from persecution, Latif finds himself
living in Uday’s house, wearing his clothes and being outfitted with prosthetic
teeth to match Uday’s bucktoothed, gapped set. Deprived of any direct way to
rebel, he seizes the chance to secretly retaliate in the only way left to him;
he starts seeing Uday’s favourite and very exclusive girlfriend/prostitute,
Sarrab (Sagnier), while waiting for the perfect moment to escape.    

Casting a British guy as an Iraqi was passably convincing, at least when
he wasn’t peppering his sentences with awful Arabic, but there’s absolutely no
excuse for trying to pass off Sagnier as Iraqi. No freaking way. This reviewer
spent most of the film labouring under the illusion that her character Sarrab
was an Eastern European Katy Perry knock-off until her very Arabic name
was mentioned.

Her ‘acting’ didn’t exactly help either. She struts around with
sultry eyes and a pouty mouth, looking like she just stepped out of a Euro-pop
music video, which is all and well for the sex and club scenes; but her sultry
expression is her way of looking sexy. And scared. And angry. And sad.

On the
other hand, Cooper gives a pretty exquisite performance opposite Sagnier’s emotional
black hole. He does double duty as both the psychotic, sleazy Uday and his unwilling
double, succeeding fabulously in crafting two separate personas with identical
looks. Uday is insane and, unluckily for the Iraqi people, surrounded by
enablers. Brandishing a gun at all times, he swaggers around bleating out
orders in this high-pitched chipmunk voice, and woe to anybody who dares
to disobey a word he says, no matter how outlandish it may be. Uday believes that
the world revolves around him and thus concerns himself more with the instant
gratification of his impulses without dwelling on any moralities. On the other
hand, Latif is a perfectly sane human who puts up with Uday’s obsession
with him for the sake of his family’s safety.

Visually, the film is gorgeous with its exquisite
oriental interiors and beautiful scenery shots. However, its biggest flaw is
its length. The film is fully coherent and goes along fine until Latif loses
the will to live and defies an outright order from Uday. His stunt lands a near-dead
Latif back at his parent’s house where he is nursed back to health; and
everything after this point is confusing filler. At 109 minutes-long, the film could
have easily lost 30 of them, making it much stronger and more focused.

The Devil’s Double is
a terrific showcase for Cooper. It’s worth a watch just to see him fully
inhabit these two polar opposites. However, be warned; Uday’s sleaziness is the
type that has you jumping into the shower, trying to bleach the memories out of
your brain.

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360 Tip

In preparation for his parts, Cooper spent some time with the real-life Latif who was smuggled out of Iraq before Uday’s death.

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