Sunday, 14 August 2011

REVIEW: The Devil's Double

Dir.: Lee Tamahori
With: Dominic Cooper

Finally, there are some decent films out! Let’s rejoice and praise the Lord!

I’ve been dying to see “The Devil’s Double” for a long, long time. The premise is well-known: the film is based on Latif Yahya’s memoirs of his life as Uday Hussein’s (Saddam’s eldest son) body double. Dominic Cooper plays both – Latif and Uday. There is something inherently captivating about stories with doppelgangers – our fascination with the concept of there being two copies of the same person probably stems from child psychology. The moment when a baby recognises his reflection in the mirror is when the possibility of having a dual existence first enters our minds. If you think about it, there have been tonnes of films made about twins, people who happen to look similar and, of course, identity usurpation. To name but a few – “The Talented Mr Ripley”, “The Parent Trap”, “Dead Ringers”, “Face Off”, “The Great Dictator”, etc etc etc.

“The Devil’s Double” does not, unfortunately, bring anything new to the psychology of doppelgangers, however, it is always fascinating to watch a person having to step into the shoes of another, both psychologically and physically. Dominic Cooper deserves much praise for his performance; he managed to create two completely different people – the psychotic, unhinged Uday and the reserved, unflinching Latif. He is both repulsive and highly amusing as Uday – there is a fair amount of humour and grotesque violence involved. Latif is quite boring, there is no real reflection of his inner turmoil, however, there are certain hints of him starting to acquire a taste for the material perks that come with his job. Dominic Cooper is in most shots in the film, but you do not tire of watching him. I do hope that his performance will be recognised by various award-givers.

The film itself could have been much better. The plot is erratic and uneven – there are very slow and boring moments and some high-paced ones. The ending is quite disappointing and there is no clear logical explanation for what had actually happened. Although, the events unfold during the years of the first Gulf War, the film does not tell anything new about Iraq and the country appears rather hastily sketched as a mere backdrop to the two protagonists. “The Devil’s Double” has been described as a Middle Eastern “Scarface”, however, it is no real match for it. The violence in it is not as shocking as one would anticipate; I have a strong feeling that the film had been heavily edited for a wider release. Uday’s womanising, sexual misdemeanours and criminality are hinted upon, but nothing is really shown. I think the film would have benefited from more shocking images. However, this is just a personal opinion and I am sure that some scenes are shocking enough for certain audiences.

Another weakness was Latif and Uday’s love interest. Her position was not very clear, not exactly a prostitute, this lady of the demi-world was supposed to be an Oriental beauty who captivated both men and caused some serious drama – the actress, Ludivine Sagnier, really failed to charm me and did not live up to her role at all.

Overall, I would still recommend watching “The Devil’s Double” simply because it is a very interesting story of a man’s life and because of Dominic Cooper’s impressing turn in it. 

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