THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE Review: Well-Acted but Wildly Inauthentic

Dominic Cooper shines in a bloody, tasteless, violent story of a dictator's son and his double.

rating: 3

Political decoys are a quirky and fascinating sidenote in history. Violent dictators, keen to avoid assassination attempts from an oppressed populace, have often hired lookalikes to protect themselves from attack. Hitler, Stalin and Bin Laden are alleged to have employed the services of doppelgangers. Even legendary World War II British army chief General Monty had a lookalike in order to confuse German intelligence reports. The lookalike went on to play dual roles - himself and the General he was impersonating - in the movie adaptation of the story I Was Monty€™s Double. In The Devil€™s Double, purportedly based on a true story, Dominic Cooper takes on the dual roles, playing both Uday Hussein (son of Saddam) and his double, the soldier Latif Yahia. Latif, much like James McAvoy€™s character in The Last King of Scotland, is the audience surrogate in a baffling, totalitarian nightmare - here, in pre-invasion Iraq. Latif is proud, patriotic, quiet and moral, and in this sense he is the diametric opposite to the man he pretends to be. Uday, as was long speculated in western media in the nineties, is the perhaps inevitable product of a spoilt upbringing from a murderous, oil-rich dictator - pathological, amoral, a wild animal; a complete psychopath. Taking a lead from his father (who also supposedly had a whole team of doubles), Uday takes Latif out of the army, forces him to take the job, then subjects him to torture and imprisonment and threatens his family when he initially refuses. So it continues in this vein for much of the film. Uday is an extraordinary figure to base a biopic around, and if even a fraction of his misdeeds depicted in this film are true, he deserves to rot in the hell that US Special Forces sent him to for a very long time. Here is a character devoid of any redeeming features whatsoever, yet lavished with impossible, distasteful wealth, and the freedom to do largely whatever he wants with whoever he wants, which he generally does - casually assaulting, raping and murdering his way through life with little consequence. The relentless violence will certainly be too much to stomach for some audiences. Latif is left to helplessly watch this cruel circus unfold, alongside an unconvincing love interest with one of Uday€™s many mistresses. Consequently his character is left a little bland: deeply principled but largely sapless in the face of such a towering villain. Cooper does tremendously well in what is clearly a star-making vehicle; the British actor embodies both roles capably and distinctly, and his dark features and scruffy moustache convinces you visually, if not audibly - the accent drops into Cooper's natural drama school RP one too many times. This is indicative of the numerous problems with this film. You wonder why they couldn€™t have casted a genuine Iraqi. It€™s a Hollywood account of a middle-eastern tale, and you sometimes wish, rather than going for the bloody, tasteless Scarface approach they€™ve clearly aimed for, this is a story which might have been told more thoughtfully by the people who experienced it. It feels wildly inauthentic plotwise, too - the ending is ludicrously over-dramatised, and numerous journalists have raised doubts over the credibility of the real-life Latif€™s claims. Still, even if you doubt the veracity of the story, or are put off by the remorselessness of the violence, you might still find solace, particularly given recent events in the Middle East, in the heart of Latif€™s struggle as a symbol of oppression fighting for basic freedoms. The Devil's Double is out in the UK on Friday.
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