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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Devil's Double

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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The Devil’s Double

Monsters walk among us wearing designer watches and driving sports cars.   They smoke expensive cigars, wear silk suits, and laugh at the havoc they create, devoid of empathy or compassion.

This monster had a brutal dictator for a father, and no set limits on his appetite for sex and mayhem.

This memoir-based story of the notorious Uday Saddam Hussein was well-known in Iraq but little known in America – until now.  A monstrous, sadistic hedonist, Saddam Hussein’s eldest son was a cruel playboy who plagued the citizens of Baghdad for years as a spoiled, vulgar bully who took what he wanted with impunity, leaving death, torture and destruction in his wake.

Uday (the titular devil) discovers that a former childhood classmate looks enough like him to be his double.  Latif Yahia remembers Uday as just that, a classmate, not a friend, and has to be physically persuaded to agree to the dangerous assignment.  Uday’s method of physical persuasion includes blood-letting and incarceration.  Latif reluctantly agrees to his new position, for his well-being and that of his family’s.

Facial surgery shapes Latif’s nose to just the right angle and he’s issued a false set of teeth to mimic Uday’s gapped imperfections.  The finished product fools even Saddam Hussein (Philip Quast) for a moment.  Only younger brother Qusay can tell them apart.

Latif detests his resemblance to such a loathsome and depraved sociopath, known for kidnapping and raping schoolgirls and defiling brides on their wedding day.  Even Uday’s personal guards have a hard time reconciling their disgust for him.

Although advised in cautious protocol by Security Chief Munem (Raad Rawi) Latif engages in risky behavior, letting his contempt for Uday be known by dallying with Uday’s favorite girl toy, Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier), and impersonating him so well that he’s given the man’s expensive car by unsuspecting valets.  These acts do not go unpunished.

The film takes place in the late 80’s and early 90’s, with a backdrop of events from the Iraq-Iran War, the invasion of Kuwait, and the first Gulf War.  The cowardly Uday shirks military assignments, preferring lavish parties and casual violence as favorite pastimes.  Bullets fly, even when he’s happy.  No one ever wants to make him mad.  He sends Latif to speak to Iraqi troops in Basra as if he were Uday.

Latif just wants to escape living someone else’s life, someone he feels does not deserve to live at all.

Dominic Cooper, in a dual role as Uday/Latif gives a virtuoso performance.  Each man is so different in temperament and morality than the other that Cooper populates the two psyches as if mastering the customs of vastly different countries to become a believable citizen of each.  He is both the good guy and the bad guy here, at war with himself most of the time.

Director Lee Tamahori (Die Another Day) based his film on Latif Yahia’s memoir and gives us a look at lives lived at someone else’s whim.  The violent nature of Uday’s exploits is toned down to just a flavor of the actual documented depravity, but Tamahori shows us enough of the unpleasant and the unthinkable to get us to shake our heads in disbelief.

Slick and savvy, the film focuses on the modern, affluent side of daily life in Iraq, illustrating excesses that go beyond material goods and into the high cost of the senseless devastation of human lives at the mercy of a madman.

Sometimes the monster that lurks in the dark is also the one that appears on a balcony in bright daylight.  Sometimes he will smile at you with gapped teeth and then break into a high-pitched laugh as he showed you around his opulent palace.

A lifestyle to die for, you’d think.  And you’d be right.

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