After watching this movie, I thought to myself, “Man, Dominic Cooper is really going to blow up this year.” He’s got a major, potentially scene-stealing role in Captain America: The First Avenger, and he’s starring as Uday Hussein and his body double in this film, The Devil’s Double. I think after this month, when these films release, Cooper will have the clout to go along with his massive talent, and he’ll be able to write his own ticket in Hollywood. I’m really happy about that, too.
It’s a shame, then, that other than his performance, this film really isn’t very good.
In the late 1980s, Iraq had just finished a war with Iran and was gearing up to war with Kuwait, a war the first President Bush would eventually intervene in. During this, Uday Hussein (Dominic Cooper), son of Saddam, demands Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper) to be his “fiday,” or body double. For reference, fiday also loosely translates to “bullet catcher,” so the nature of their relationship should be fairly obvious. Latif’s old life is stripped away, his face surgically altered, and soon, he finds himself as a third Hussein brother, taking Uday’s place for the things that Uday simply does not want to do, like addressing Iraqi troops and giving speeches. Uday continues to live his own life, one of criminal, dangerous excess. As Latif spends more time around Uday, he finds himself confronted with uncomfortable truths about his country’s leaders.
The film is based off of Latif Yahia’s autobiographical account of working as Uday’s fiday, and that shows. The film is plotted and paced more like a series of events through time, rather than a larger narrative. This can be made to work in a film, provided there’s a larger narrative arc threading through the film. Ghandi couln’t just be Ghandi going about doing stuff; it had to be about Ghandi saving India from oppression and becoming the man we revere today. The Devil’s Double is just a lot of different things happening in an awful place.
Building on that, the characterization is by and large nonexistent. Latif is as flat as you get for protagonists. He’s a good man in an awful place, which is interesting, but he is only ever just that. He had no ups, no downs, and, oddly, no temptations to stray him from his path as a good man. In addition, the film is stuffed with characters that show up for a handful of lines to tell us they’re important, and then they fade into the background.
However, easily the worst character in the film is Sarrab (Ludivine Sangier), Uday’s mistress. One of the chief conflicts of the film is that Sarran and Latif begin a relationship behind Uday’s back. It’s an action that they both know comes with dire consequences. This is an interesting notion, but we don’t learn enough about Sarrab to understand why she does the things she does. Concurrently, the relationship seems to happen solely because of the forbidden temptation factor. There’s no real chemistry between the two, and no real reason to justify why they’d throw away their own lives, and the lives of their families, for a relationship. This is a real problem, as the last third of the film deals with the fallout from their relationship, and it absolutely murders the largely adequate pacing.
The shining ray of interest in the film is Dominic Cooper’s dual performance. Like I said in the beginning, this could be the movie that rockets this guy to real importance. As Latif, he doesn’t have a lot to work with, character-wise, but as Uday, he’s crafted an exceptionally memorable film psychopath. Uday is a bi-polar, drug-addled mother’s boy. He’s a weird mix of gangster kingpin, spoiled royalty, and absolutly terrifying psycho, but Cooper manages to work it just right. He’s over the top, yes, but you get the sense that, in a life of excesses such as his, how wouldn’t one be over the top? Uday’s evil is deep and disturbing, and Dominic Cooper deserves some recognition for making it the most watchable part of a mediocre movie.
The Devil’s Double is a bad movie that’s saved from boredom by one great performance. It’s poorly plotted, decently paced, and, other than Dominic Cooper, fairly blandly acted. It’s not terribly good, but it’s not going to win any Razzies, to boot.
Max Roahrig: 50 – Bad. What could’ve been a very interesting movie is marred by terrible pacing, poor acting, and needless romance. The Devil’s Double is the kind of schlop I expect from a recent film school graduate. Needlessly bouncing between isolated scenarios, you can tell that this was adapted from someone’s autobiography. And the tacked on “romance” between Dominic Cooper’s Latif and Ludivine Sangler’s Sarrab is completely unbelievable. However, Dominc Cooper deserves much praise playing the sadistic and sociopathic Uday Hussain. Mr. Cooper has a great future ahead of him, but he deserves better than The Devil’s Double. And so do we.