The Devil’s Double
What’s it like to have an evil twin? Just ask Latif Yahia. In the early 90s during the height of Pres. Hussein’s rule over Iraq, his eldest son Uday considers Latif, a childhood classmate, to extinguish his identity to become his double. Hussein’s free-wheeling son can’t get enough sex, drink, and money to satisfy his violent lust and narcissism while Baghdad’s burning. Dominic Cooper expertly pulls off both roles.
Directed by Lee Tamahori whose previous films that include Utu, Once Were Warriors and Mulholland Falls helped propel the New Zealand filmmaker’s career to the international stage. In his adaptation of Dr. Latif Yahia’s biography about his experience living as Uday Hussein’s body double, Dominic Cooper as both Yahia and Hussein deftly offer a split personality that’s finessed in both roles. The characters’ polarity pits Yahia as a more than unwilling participant (family members would be killed under Uday’s blessing if he does not cooperate) against the sadistic and extravagantly hedonistic Uday whose security is fiercely protected from loyal bodyguards. Yahia, of course, has a few cards up sleeve to see if he can beat the odds at playing Uday’s narcissistic clone.
The Devil’s Double is an excellent portrait of Uday’s cracked mirror and reveals how Yahia manages to survive his manipulative advances and relentless bacchanal at gunpoint. Set on the cusp of President Saddam Hussein’s failing Iraq and the country’s incursion into Kuwait during first Gulf War, Director Tamhori recreates period detail shimmering in amber and gold featuring a soundtrack peppered with Eighties chart-toppers by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Dead or Alive with Christian Henson’s original score pulsing with sinewy musical arabesques and ambience. Well done.