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The Devils Double
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The Devil’s Double – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

In late 1980s Baghdad, they didn’t come much lower in the Iraqi army than Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper) but he had something none of his comrades had – a remarkable similarity in appearance to Saddam Hussein’s ruthless megalomaniac of a son Udai (Dominic Cooper, with fake teeth).
Being the high profile, playboy son of a despot, has its downsides – you have enemies – and you often have to give the appearance of being in several places at once. A solution to both of those problems, at least, is to find someone who looks enough like you that he can be sent to do the dangerous jobs – and he can make people think you’re in one place, when you need to be somewhere else.
Udai summons Latif and offers him the job – well, it’s not so much offer, as beats him to an inch of his life until he accepts – in the knowledge that from this point on, Latif is dead to everyone outside Saddam’s inner-circle, including his family.
Latif is set up in one of Udai’s palaces, given a bit of plastic surgery and some fake teeth and ordered to read everything he needs to know about Udai’s life – and offered all the riches and women (except Udai’s favourites) he could wish for.
But Latif finds it hard to adapt to his new life and grows increasingly disconcerted by the things he sees and things he’s forced to do in Udai’s name – and once he wishes for one of Udai’s favourite women, his mind is made up.
He has to escape.
But betrayal is one of the many things that Udai doesn’t take too well and he’s not going to let Latif disappear quietly.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Based on Latif Yahia’s own recollections of his life as the Devil’s double, this peculiarly European co-prodution makes for a thrilling political drama, tackling fascinating themes of duty, honour, blackmail and betrayal.
The production design is suitably glitzy and Lee Tamahori’s direction is economically brisk and the film zips along, keeping your interest throughout.
It also provides a fascinating insight into the world of a barbarous but paranoid dictator and his son, from their doubles to the food tasters, the politics, the domination and the father’s frustration about his son’s playboy lifestyle.
For anyone familiar with Udai’s story, certain scenes will ring true, but given that this is based on a book that Latif Yahia claims is his life-story, whether you believe in its twists and turns will depend on whether you believe Latif Yahia himself. There’s certainly a sense that Yahia – who takes on a minor role in the film himself – is setting himself up as, perhaps, more of a hero figure than he was in reality.
One problem of a film that’s based on a true story – however loosely – is that you can’t change the ending, so anyone who remembers the events of the Iraq War which brought about Saddam’s downfall will remember how Udai died, which will remove much of the tension towards the end of this film. Basing a movie on reality often – and certainly in this case – limits the film-makers’ ability to follow the best dramatic arc, so when the obvious and necessary conclusion to this tale of a body-double cannot come to pass, the audience will feel cheated.
But to whatever degree it mirror’s the truth, The Devil’s Double is unquestionably a sexy and exciting thriller that, more than any of his many previous roles, marks Dominic Cooper out as an actor of note.
With only a pair of false teeth to differentiate the two characters he plays, Cooper is convincing in the way he puts across the two contrasting personalities, although he’s less convincing when it comes to following Latif’s character arc, as he flips between doubter and follower as required by the plot.

Opens nationwide 10th August 2011

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