The Devil’s Double

As a politics and history fiend, the prospect of a factual-ish movie about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq really appealed. While it wasn’t quite as good as I anticipated, it’s still one to see.

The Devil’s Double tells the semi-fictional story of Latif Yahia, plucked from the army to serve as double to Saddam Hussein’s deranged son Uday, given their striking physical resemblance. Latif’s job drags him into Iraq’s corrupt elite, where he witnesses deeds which cause him to hate both the regime and himself.

Dominic Cooper gives two good performances - as brooding, guilt-ridden Latif, and as the psychopathic, extroverted Uday. I should say, though, that watching his performance as Uday, dancing like a demented Freddy Mercury impersonator, firing bullets into the air at an 80s discotheque was the better of the two, comic and terrible at once.

Any movie based on real life faces criticism for inaccuracy, and there is inaccuracy aplenty in the Devil’s Double. The love triangle between Latif, Uday and prostitute Sarrab (Ludivine Sangier) is - in my opinion - overdone. Latif’s moralism leaves the character a bit two-dimensional, certainly compared to his insane, but entertaining, master.

However, kudos must go to director Lee Tahamori for one thing: the casting of Philip Quast as Saddam himself. As a member of the generation which watched his execution on YouTube, seeing Saddam brought back to life by Quast was genuinely scary. It’s a great performance: understated and terrifying at the same time, as he threatens to castrate his wayward son.