THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE
By Gary ‘Satan’s Twin’ Murray
Starring Dominic Cooper Ludivine Sagnier, Raad Rawi, Philip Quast, Mimoun Oaissa, Khalid Laith, Dar Salim and Nasser Memarzia
Written by Michael Thomas
Directed by Lee Tamahori
Running time 105 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE
I knew nothing about The Devil’s Double before I entered the screening. With some movies, there are ad campaigns that go on for months before the release date. Stories pop up about the movie and the stars on all the entertainment shows. By the time the movie finally hits the theater screen, there is little left to see even before it starts. After the lights went up post-screening of this film, I knew that I had seen one of the best performances of 2011.
The true story of The Devil’s Double takes place in 1987, the time before the first Iraq war. An Iraqi Army lieutenant Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper) is summoned to the palace of Saddam Hussein. It seems that he is a close double for Uday Hussein (again Dominic Cooper) and since Saddam has a double, Uday also wants a double. He makes Latif submit to cosmetic surgery to make the illusion complete.
Latif is thrown into the life of Uday. Very soon, he discovers that Uday is insane. He is a sadist, rapist and over the top partier. Latif is forced to act the part of Uday at times and claim to be the third son of Saddam at others.
As we go into the world of Uday, we see the notoriousness of the regime. Iraq is basically a wild hedonistic play-land for those connected with the government and Uday is a prince of this fiefdom. He takes little girls off the street and brides as his playthings in a twisted version of “Droit du Seigneur”. He does a Scarface amount of cocaine and kills those who question or threaten him. A single wrong glance at Uday could be a death sentence.
All Latif wants is to escape. But a complication arises with Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier), one of the many mistresses of Uday. There is a secret she posses that keeps her from trying to escape his wrath. There is also the problem that Uday will kill every member of Latif’s family if Latif does not do exactly what Uday wants. It is a no-win situation. The story is of Latif and his struggle to get free as the war against the US over Kuwait rages the countryside.
Dominic Cooper gives one of the most impressive performances of 2011. Even though he is the same person, he generates two very different personas here. So complete is the illusion that one never gets confused by either role given by the same actor. This is a masterwork that will be studied by acting students for decades to come. A complete acting deception is what Dominic Cooper creates,
Ludivine Sagnier did a great job as Sarrab, the fallen woman with her own past. She sees that she can play both sides to get what she wants and has no qualms about doing anything to get her way. It is almost a femme fatale performance.
This is not a film for children or the super sensitive. There are acts of extreme violence, with blood and mayhem the rule rather than the exception. Blood and guts flow more than once during the presentation. Director Lee Tamahori never shies away from showing the base reactions of this violent world. This is not for the faint of heart.
August and September are the months where Oscar long-shots are launched. Most of the big studios want to get that Academy Buzz starting as soon as possible, getting adult audiences into the theaters once all the kids and their blockbuster have left. The Devil’s Double is one of the first films to be put in the water of Oscar talk. It deserves to be considered when the year ends.