Dominic Cooper in The Devil's DoubleAs the U.S. waged its war in Iraq more than two decades ago, it became relatively well known Saddam Hussein employed impersonators to attend to some affairs on his behalf. However, less talked about was one of his son’s attempts to use a similar deception in favour of more time for debauchery. It’s simple to pity his selection, as being Uday Saddam Hussein was not an easy task.

Latif (Dominic Cooper) had the misfortune of being a former schoolmate of Uday’s (Dominic Cooper), which meant he was privy to their uncanny similarities. With a few minor adjustments, Latif could be Uday’s identical twin; even better, Latif could be Uday. As this is a rare coincidence, Latif’s assistance is not so much requested as it is demanded. But Uday is merciless and ill-tempered, and it’s only a matter of time before Latif can no longer carry on with the charade or Uday kills him in a fit of rage.

Cooper’s dual performance is brilliant. He convincingly portrays the polar opposite characters, providing Latif with the humanity that Uday seemingly never possessed. There is not even a hint of Uday’s psychotic look in Latif’s eyes – unless he’s pretending to be Uday. Though it may be early to enter a horse into the Oscar race, it wouldn’t be a long shot to see Cooper’s name appear in the best actor category. The men’s female interest is sufficiently portrayed as an opportunistic/scared vixen by French actress Ludivine Sagnier, whose various hair colours affects which personality she puts forward in certain situations.

The events portrayed in The Devil’s Double are often disturbing, with the most horrific acts usually committed by Uday. He was vicious and sadistic, able to kill an innocent person on a whim. He was also what would now be considered a sex addict, believing he was entitled to any woman he wanted, including adolescent school girls. His personality dominates the people around him, as well as the film. Conversely, Latif is the embodiment of the audience’s opposition to Uday. He’s kinder and his resistance to his servitude gives the audience a character to relate to in the narrative.

The events depicted occurred during the Gulf War in the early ‘90s. As a result, there are checkpoints manned by Iraqi soldiers, occasional shelling of nearby buildings and several assassination attempts. In addition, montages of news footage of explosions, oil fires, wounded soldiers and speeches by former U.S. president George H. W. Bush are sprinkled throughout the film; however, they feel superfluous to the story. Most people in the audience know this was wartime and everyone knows what war looks like. Consequently, these peripheral images interrupt the narrative needlessly.

Finally, this film is not for the squeamish. Uday is repulsive most of the time and his need to humiliate or hurt innocent people can be somewhat overwhelming. Also, director Lee Tamahori does not hold back on the blood and gore. There are graphic representations of corpses, severed limbs and spilling guts throughout the picture. But if you can handle these elements (or cover your eyes through parts of it), this is an excellent film featuring a brilliant performance.

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