Lee Tamahori’s adaptation of Latif Yahia’s novel, The Devil’s Double, has shown he’s back on top form after the his past flops, Next and xXx 2. The film follows Yahia (Dominic Cooper) forced into the role of Uday Hussein’s (Saddam’s son) body double. Latif begins to witness Uday’s psychotic nature and the corruption of the Iraqi regime.
Tamahori’s direction is confident and stylish: with the film being incredibly well shot and edited. He makes use of archive footage to set up a basic context to refresh viewers of the situation in the Gulf War. I also got the impression that Tamahori didn’t want to play to censors – this is a powerful gritty film that distances him from his latest directorial ventures.
Dominic Cooper is absolutely mesmerizing in the dual roles of Latif and Uday, at points so convincing that you would be forgiven for thinking the roles are played by two separate actors – apart from the obvious physical resemblance. We see that Latif is a man tormented by his double’s actions, desperate to escape from his role. This is almost completely opposite to the role of Uday, who appears to have no conscience, leading a truly psychotic life style. He really deserves acclaim for the role as he almost single-handedly carries the film. We’ve all seen actors in dual roles that have been ridiculous (Poor Lindsay Lohan in I Know Who Killed Me) but Cooper’s charisma and talent prevent this from happening in The Devil’s Double.
As previously stated, the film does not play to censors. It’s incredibly gratuitous – depicting violence, sex and corruption. This works well, paralleling the extreme lifestyle that Uday lives. This combined with an 80’s synthpop soundtrack (Mainly Dead or Alive) is sheer perfection!
The Devil’s Double is not completely one sided, at points reminding us that although Saddam Hussein committed many atrocities ‘he built roads, schools and hospitals’. We also need to remember, although most likely true – this is simply based on one man’s experiences, so who knows how accurate they are. Obviously there’s a large amount of Hollywood sparkle put on top of the film – mainly in the form of a dodgy romantic subplot, which towards the end of the film just becomes unnecessary complicating.
Tamahori’s film also has the rare combination of being incredibly entertaining, yet at points incredibly difficult to watch. Scenes such as Uday kidnapping schoolgirls for sex or the rape of a bride on her wedding day, are incredibly hard hitting. However, the film does also feature some humour, an action packed climax and elements political intrigue.
It may not be perfect but The Devil’s Double is one of my favourite films of the year. Dominic Cooper is surely on course to become a household name after this striking tour de force from Lee Tamahori.
Reviewer: Andrew McArthur
DVD/BR Release: 26th December (UK)
Rating: 18 (UK)
Director: Lee Tamahori
Stars: Dominic Cooper, Raad Rawi and Ludivine Sagnier