The Devil's Double

The Devil's Double
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The Devil's Double When we were children our parents told us thereís no such thing as monsters. In the sense that thereís no mythical furry, fang-toothed, sharp-clawed beast under the bed or in the closet this is true, but this world is filled with monsters. Evil exists. There are people on this planet who live without moral compass or boundaries, men who feed on hate and terror. For years Uday Hussein, son of dictator Saddamn Hussein, wreaked his own personal brand of horror on the people of Iraq and now director Lee Tamahori has brought that malevolence to a personal level with The Devilís Double.

Featuring a stunning dual performance by star Dominic Cooper, the film is a brutal and often hard to watch look at what happens when unfettered power is given to an absolute psychopath. Though it drags in the third act and has a fairly predictable plot structure (and I donít just mean because itís based on a true story), Devilís Double is gripping when it needs to be, enough that itís held together by an intense dynamic between two main characters.

Set in 1987, Iraqi army lieutenant Latif Yahia (Cooper) is sent from the battlefield to Saddam Hussein's palace where a former classmate, Uday Hussein (also Cooper), asks that Latif become his ďfiday,Ē or body double. Told that his family would be killed if he refuses, Latif agrees, but soon becomes witness to Udayís gruesome nature. The Black Princeís daily life is filled with drugs, rape, torture and murder. Unable to take any more, he tries to escape, but it comes at an incredible cost.

The Devilís Double is driven almost entirely by Dominic Cooperís memorable turn as both Latif and Uday. Though there are differences between the two that help viewers tell them apart Ė they have different voices and teeth Ė it ends up not mattering, as Cooper communicates which person he is via body language alone. The two men can be in the same room, wearing the same clothes, standing perfectly still and yet youíll have no trouble picking out which one is which. Though each character is different and complex, Cooper completely embodies each one he seamlessly interacts with himself. Youíll never consciously feels like youíre watching Dominic Cooper play two roles, which is everything you can ask for in a film made like this one.

While both hero and antagonist are stunning in the depth of their portrayal, the film suffers in story and structure. Though The Devilís Double contains powerful scenes, they serve to construct characters rather than story, which is a format almost too simple to sustain itself. It doesnít take much more than Uday slicing open a manís stomach with a machete to understand why Latif would want to escape, yet a great deal of the film is dedicated to showing the princeís crimes against humanity as a way to increase the scriptís intensity level. While effective, it doesnít help a lagging plot. Even the romantic interest, played by Ludivine Sagnier, feels more like an excuse to have Latif interact with another character, than part of the story as a whole.

Also questionable is the filmís crisp, clean cinematography. On one level it suits the gilded cage motif Ė a man given everything he could want but also hopelessly trapped Ė but also runs in contrast to the filmís tone, which because of the content, is black as night. It doesnít do the movie any favors and, in a way, becomes a distraction. While I wouldnít advocate a ďgrindhouseĒ style for the film, something in between would be apropos and might have made already extreme scenes all the more so.

The Devilís Double is kept afloat by Dominic Cooperís fascinating performance. Missing this would mean missing one of the most brilliant acting displays of the year and while the film feels deeply flawed, Cooper is worth the price of admission.

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7 / 10 stars
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