The Devil’s Double – 3.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

devilThe Devil’s Double – 3.5/5 – This is a review for a movie that was released a couple years ago.   With this movie, I had no inkling of what to expect, except that I knew the premise is that the film follows the perspective of the double of one of Saddam Hussein’s sons.  My thought’s going into this film was one thought, which after watching it, this was a whole different kind of film.  The Devil’s Double is more than just a character style movie, but a dramatization on a average scale.

Premise: Baghdad, the playground for the Hussein’s, especially Uday.  This is Uday Hussein’s world and with his depraved lust for debauchery and immorality, he helps himself to anything he wishes at whim. When army lieutenant Latif Yahia is summoned to Saddam’s palace, he is faced with an impossible request; to be Uday’s body double or his family would be condemned to death.  In a world entrenched in betrayal and corruption, Latif’s world becomes a matter of life or death, as he must battle with the thought to escape or live in a world he is forced to existence in.

The movie’s main character is Uday Hussein and Latif.  Playing both characters, in a very good duality aspect, is actor Dominic Cooper.  As both the double and Uday himself, you see a degree of great acting and true versatility.  As Uday, Cooper provides a person who is a true maniac.  He has sex with every woman he finds, he kills anyone that betrays him and will pretty much do anything he wants, and get away with it.  With his father leading Iraq, he has no reason to care for anything because he faces no real threats.  You see this ‘reckless’ behavior with the interactions with the women he abuses and the people that work for him.  He is truly a crazy man, and someone you never want to meet.  As the double Latif, he plays someone that is complete opposite in the movie.  He is someone with a real moral compass and wishes to be able to live with his family and a decent life.  This changes when Uday forces him into the role as his double.  Even with a moral code, Latif is a character that evolves emotional and humanly in the movie.  You watch him become someone who is brawn, stern and really a yin to Uday’s yang.  He is someone that see’s the world through true colors and realizes his country doesn’t represent what he was originally fighting for. In this evolution as a person, you see that Latif learns and becomes Uday, but refuses the thrills of his ‘crazy’ antics.  In these true roles, Dominic Cooper goes beyond the call of duty and creates a complexion of the humanity through these characters, as there is a lovehate relationship boiling between the two, as you witness layers that only the top tier actors/actress can provide.  You witness the truth that a moral compass is strong in some, and don’t exist in the other.   This is what you deem, an Oscar caliber role.  Outside of Dominic Cooper and his perform as both people, the rest of the cast is a combination of wooden acting performances and common drama characters you may find in films and plays dealing with ‘historical’ situations.  From the people that protect Uday, to the Iraqi citizens and the victims caught in the way, you know you’ve seen these kinds of characters in different ways.  They provide enough to make the story move, but nothing more than that.

The direction of the film follows the path of a standard character driven model.  With this theme prevalent, it has to setup who are going to be the characters that drive this film.  That is where the film starts off; with the introduction to how Uday get’s Latif to be his double.  From there, you watch as both men go down different paths together.  Uday is driven down a road where he does what he wants, acting wild and crazy, as he performs debauchery acts at will.  You watch how this layer of evil and vileness affects Latif as a man, and how he should perform in his new ‘double’ role.  As he is forced to mimic and perform just like Uday, he comes to the realization that he must be a firm and moral dagger, as he must try to represent something that is not truth on screen.  With that moral code, you watch as these opposite forces live and counter each other.  There are times when their confrontations leads to Latif getting ‘discipline’, but the underline feeling’s is that Uday cannot outright kill him.  As much as he loathes his acts and fights against his will, he must have him alive to survive in this world he has created for both to live in.  This character driven theme is a force behind the movies story, but it would have been much stronger if the second layer of a ‘historical’ mapping of Iraq’s rise and fall through the 80s and 90s weren’t present.  It is important to note this in the film, but the way it is shoehorned at certain points breaks direction and halts momentum of any attachment of dramatic tension that is built between the two new ‘brothers’.  The wars in the 80s and 90s are important to Iraq, but to the relationship between Uday and Latif, it isn’t.  Even for this fragment, you will still have a firm focus throughout the film because of the awkward but futile interactions between Uday and Latif.  When the climax hits, you feel the pain of Latif’s struggle to be true as he mimics evil, but his release will finally come in the final minutes, as karma is always fate’s main hand.

The visuals are daunting, but vivid and real.  From the re-creation of Baghdad and the overall staging of Iraq, it is very authentic and mesmerizing.  This spectacle of the trivial situation is even more hauntingly true is with the counter of how ‘lavishing’ the life Uday lives.  From the creation of his palaces, and the use of high price living, you realize that he was living a fantasy, at the struggle of his citizen.  This helps creates a true emotional ride, and is divisive in the main two character’s interaction and  development.  The score is appealing at best, but doesn’t do much to add any depth to the film.

The Devil’s Double is a great character movie, which provides a light on a life that was both vile and intriguing.  From the lavishing life of Uday, you have the struggle of his double, Latif, trying to live this but stay true to him.  Some standard elements of story progression here, but if you’re looking for a good character film, this is one for you.

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