The devil in this story is Uday Hussein, the notoriously decadent and monstrous elder son of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein. The story’s double is Latif Yahia, a valorous Iraqi soldier whose recently published memoir about his experiences serving as Uday’s body double provides the source material for this film. Dominic Cooper plays both roles. His performance would have been a tour de force had there only been authentic characters here to play.
Unfortunately, both Uday and Latif are one-note characterizations, though Cooper does wonders with the material he’s been given to work with.
Screenwriter Michael Thomas creates no story arc or character modulation, which results in a film that starts out at full tilt and has nowhere to build from there. Uday is an unbridled maniac whose lust for women, torture and expensive goods knows no bounds — not even Papa Saddam ever says no to his first-born. Latif is a reluctant and repulsed conscript: He obeys palace orders only upon threat of harm to his family.
It’s not that such things as the torture scenes or the vivid disembowelment of a crony are not emotionally fraught and intense, nor that Uday was a misunderstood lunatic in need of explication. Rather, The Devil’s Doublesimply offers a trip through hell on a one-way track, like a spook-house ride at the amusement park meant to titillate and excite the senses and then deposit the rider/viewer safely on the other side in the full light of day. Grade: C
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