The Devil’s Double Movie Review: What Happens In Iraq Stays In Iraq

While it’s inevitable that nobody paints themselves as a villain in their own life story, it’s even more likely that they’ll be depicted as a saint in their very own living biopic on screen. Especially if some of those events are potentially indictable.

And in the case of The Devil’s Double, about the homicidal misdeeds of reportedly psychopathically inclined Saddam son, Uday Hussein – and the collaborative offer to his chosen body double Latif Yahia that he can’t refuse – what happens in Iraq prior to this biopic, stays in Iraq. And so what we have with seeming gun-for-hire Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double, is a thriller penned by Brit Michael Thomas (Pirate Radio, Scandal). And with a screenwriting credit as well for Yahia, on whose novel – rather than say, memoir – the movie is based. And a shady rather than shaded spin on events surrounding the US invasion of Iraq, which amounts to an implied justification for that invasion. Even if the US military never seems to be around during these blatantly absentee, anything but nuanced chain of events.

Which leads to as many lingering doubts regarding what’s been obviously deleted from this story, as to the veracity of what’s been flamboyantly pumped in. And a scenario so taken to extremes about an exceedingly malevolent problem child offspring, that even sympathetically perturbed parent Saddam comes off looking – likely unintentionally – not half bad in comparison.

Dominic Cooper does excel at pulling off playing Latif and Uday simultaneously, a split personality display of radical self-hatred that may have been as much of a schizophrenic ordeal for Cooper as for Yahia. An Iran-Iraq War military officer from a prominent wealthy family (though depicted here more as a weary grunt), Yahia is summoned by Uday following the conflict, to serve as his ‘fiday’ or body double during potentially dangerous public appearances.

And Yahia resists the assignment, but eventually gets into the swing of things. Which includes mimicking and getting seemingly turned on by at least a portion of bizarre bachelor Uday’s decadent lifestyle himself, counting a personal staff of four maids, a cook and multiple willing women. Though Yahia does draw the line at more psychopathic ventures, such as impulsive murder, maiming, kidnapping and rape. And if he does actually commit any criminal activity during the course of this deranged detention, it’s under duress.

So are we talking mandatory sadism, Stockholm Syndrome in old Baghdad, or a complicated selective menu intimating much more. Well, only Latif seems to know for sure. Though the implicitly emasculated boy toy’s repeated assertion during these ever accelerating perverse proceedings that he’s alike in nearly every way to his captor except for possessing exceedingly bigger balls – and gets to actually blast away those ridiculed body parts during a shootout before fleeing to Ireland (eventually fleeing from there offscreen as well, after an illegal firearms warrant) – has to make you wonder.


Rated R

1 [out of 4] star

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.