Saddam Hussein is dead - or is he? If sources, and Lee Tamahori, are to be believed, then the former President of Iraq had enough body doubles to cover his tracks from Baghdad to Alaska. For all you know, Hussein may be a resident in your own neighbourhood, as innocuous as your uncle, with a cigar in his mouth.
The Devil's Double, however, is not about Saddam Hussein (Philip Quast) - at least not entirely. It is about the psychotic heir to Hussein's zillions, his son Uday (Dominic Cooper), and the latter's fiday (body double), Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper).
Latif and Uday were classmates in school once, and looked like brothers. Now Latif is a lieutenant in the Iran-Iraq war. Uday, the brash son of Saddam Hussein, not only gave the war a miss, but became an uncontrollable tyrant in Baghdad.
With his father becoming more unpopular, Uday believes his own life is in danger, too. Inspired by his father, he decides that he, too, should have a body double to make public appearances for him in places and situations where his own life may be in danger.
Latif is presented to the arrogant Uday, and approved of. Latif has no intention of becoming a body double and 'extinguishing' his own existence, but threats to his family and a night in solitary confinement leave him without a choice.
As Latif reluctantly grows closer to Uday, he realises that the latter is insane and dangerous. Uday has no control over his whoring, boozing, doping and killing (and the obsession with a mysterious transvestite) - he even murders, for fun, his father's most trusted advisor, at a party. Uday has another fetish - virginal school girls. He abducts them at will, rapes them, and, more often than not, slays them.
When Latif falls in love with Uday's favourite mistress Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier), he decides to get out of this mess once and for all. Things are not as easy as they seem, however, as Uday is determined to never let go of his fiday.
This is Dominic Cooper's movie all the way. He is terrific in the roles of both Latif and Uday. One is a sober, ethical, patriotic young man, and the other is a mentally unstable son of the President, and Cooper brings them both to life. It is difficult to believe that the same actor has played the two roles. This is also the first movie that makes him look incredibly hot, especially as the brooding Latif.
Ludivine Sagnier is decent, and she has a substantial role in a movie that revolves around one man, twice. Her vulnerability and manipulation can give you the shivers.
Philip Quast makes a convincing Saddam, and Raad Rawi is apt for the role of Munem.
The story begins in the days before the Iraq invasion of Kuwait. Life was simpler, and it was easier to be a dictator. With the eyes of the rest of the world on Iraq eventually, Uday's life becomes more and more complicated. Nobody dares to oppose the mad man, and Saddam, when he has the time, is the only one who can instill the fear of God in his son.
Based on the book The Devil's Double by Latif Yahia, the screenplay by Michael Thomas never wavers for a second, and you are made aware at regular intervals that all these extraordinary events truly took place once.
Shot entirely in Malta, The Devil's Double has superior production design, but some sets seem to be inspired by the general Hollywood version of the Middle East. Dominic Cooper's clothes are realistic, and well-researched. Make-up to differentiate the two characters, and then make them look alike, has been used very effectively.
It is a well-known fact that Uday was crippled in an assassination attempt, and was later killed by the US army. What many do not know is that Latif is a reclusive, private person, who lives with his family in Ireland, and is now writing his fourth book on his experiences in Iraq.
One can only hope that the makers of this movie will consider bringing those stories to the big screen, too, because one just cannot get enough of a real-life despot - especially when that oppressor is someone as crazy as Uday Saddam Hussein.