Playing double often doesn't work out well. Ask Adam Sandler. Then again, on rare occasion, it works splendidly. In The Devil's Double, Dominic Cooper turns in an incredible performance as Uday Hussein, the sadistic son of Saddam Hussein, and his reluctant body double Latif Yahia.
Based on Yahia's personal account, The Devil's Double is an effective-drama thriller that, though sensationalized, presents a disturbing inside look at a dictator's too-strange-to-be-fictional life. From torture to rape to murder, nothing was off limits for Uday, who lived without consequence and was quite possibly a psychopath.
Directed by Lee Tamahori, The Devil's Double is a fast-paced, violent and sensational movie that fires on all cylinders. Though far from a masterpiece, it's entertaining and, most importantly, superbly acted by Dominic Cooper.
Cooper, most recently seen as Howard Stark in Captain America: The First Avenger, gets to play dual roles that would make most actors salivate. Playing multiple roles is typically reserved for comedies (see most Eddie Murphy movies), but in The Devil's Double, both characters are serious and starkly different from one another. As Latif Yahia, he is a morally conflicted slave who barely has a choice to do what he does. As Uday, he is a sociopathic monster, a killer who has no mercy and takes enjoyment in the most horrific of things.
Cooper is simply outstanding in both roles. While the two characters are opposites in many ways, they are also designed to be similar; Yahia must look and act like Uday. This element adds a complexity to both roles, as Cooper at times must play a third role - a fake Uday - that bridges the gap between the two men.
Beyond Cooper, The Devil's Double is a serviceable thriller, with some interesting situations and adequate suspense toward the end. It is, however, too straightforward for its own good. I can only wonder what this film would have been like had Tamahori and screenwriter Michael Thomas taken it in another direction. The story has potential as a psychological thriller, where Yahia grapples with his forced dual personalities. Or as a broader historical drama, which frames the story against broader political and historical context.
Though it could have been better, The Devil's Double is an intriguing and captivating thriller. Overlooked during its theatrical release, it's likely that Dominic Cooper's performance will be overlooked come award season, which is a shame; he turns in one of the best performances of the best of the year.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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