By watching the special features on Lionsgate’s Blu-ray for The Devil’s Double you’re quickly made aware how fictional this “based on a true story” really is. However, what’s most alarming is how believable it all is. On top of that, a little research online alerts you to how very real the most horrific moment in the film actually is as Dominic Cooper as Uday Hussein slices open Kamel Hanna Jajo, Saddam Hussein’s valet and food-taster. Of course, the way Jajo is killed differs from reports on how it went down in real life and the events that follow are a dramatic diversion, but the fact remains… Uday was psychotic.
I heard varying buzz on The Devil’s Double since its Sundance debut earlier this year and I missed it in theaters in July, but I’m happy I didn’t let the negativity that started to swirl around its theatrical release discourage me from watching it. While it’s not a knockout, this is an easy recommendation to make as Cooper delivers a wildly entertaining double performance as both Uday and his body double Latif Yahia as the story of the elder Hussein son is dramatized into a glossy Middle Eastern gangster story.
What should be immediately addressed are the comparisons to Scarface that so many critics tried to make. The comparison, I’m assuming comes as a result of the film including guns, cocaine and violence, but that’s really where it ends. For as much as Saddam Hussein and his regime dominated the political landscape, Scarface was far more political than this film and I don’t think you’ll get much disagreement out of director Lee Tamahori who would rather compare Uday’s story to the Godfather‘s Corleone family, but even that comparison — as loose as he admits it is in the special features — doesn’t fit.
Tamahori tries to compare Uday’s psychotic behavior to James Caan’s Sonny Corleone and Latif to Al Pacino‘s Michael, but the similarities are entirely non-existent. Sonny may have had some violent tendencies, but he didn’t necessarily go off the same way Uday does. Uday’s behavior is unpredictable and deplorable as he’s not above raping a newlywed bride or kidnapping school girls to sate his sexual needs. Hardly the actions you’d expect from Sonny. And to say Latif is Michael by comparison is equally absurd, but this still doesn’t take away from the enjoyment I had watching the film.
The Devil’s Double is based on the story of Latif Yahia, who sits down for a brief interview on this Blu-ray, and the stories relayed in [amazon asin=”0099465558″ text=”his book”] as he describes what it was like to be the body double for Uday. His claims have not been confirmed and are still disputed, but I think this still serves as a fascinating attempt at dramatizing the Hussein inner-circle.
However, as much as it works, the promise of an actual gangster story told based on the lives of the Hussein brothers does make you wish for a different movie. Had this film actually taken more of a real world approach as opposed to the glossy, gold-plated version that was delivered this really could have been something special. Instead what you get is a solid diversion and a film I actually wouldn’t mind watching again, even though I was not a fan of the film’s last 15-20 minutes, particularly the lengths the story went to include Ludivine Sangier‘s character Sarrab and the role she plays in the film’s third act.
As for the features I’ve mentioned, there are two others I have yet to reference, one being a look at how they transformed Cooper and how they merged his performances as both Uday and Latif into the film, a performance I must say I quite enjoyed. The last is an audio commentary with Tamahori, which I admittedly did not listen to.
My first recommendation would be to rent this one and see how it sits with you. It does have some graphic violence and does touch on the torture and pain inflicted by Uday, which may turn some people off. However, it also includes a rather wild and inventive pair of performances by Dominic Cooper and is an enjoyable watch overall, though the lofty comparisons to Scarface are a bit overcooked.
If you’re up for it, you can buy this title at Amazon right here.