The Devil’s Double
“That Just Looks Like So Much Fun!”
By Jeffrey Kieviet
It was a night like any other night. “What do you wanna do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” “I don’t know, wanna watch a movie?” “What movie?” “Something awesome.” “Any suggestions?” This is a typical evening at my house. Sometimes it leads to depressing failures like The Puffy Chair (a review that will probably never be), or ventures into indie-pop culture like Tiny Furniture (or HBO’s Girls), or even a solid block of How I Met Your Mother reruns. But tonight I was determined to pick a winner.
“What movies do you consider awesome?”
“Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas. Ya’know. Awesomeness.”
I flick through the Netflix options and the golden cover of The Devil’s Double draws my attention. I’d seen someone promoting this on The Daily Show or Colbert Report awhile back and it had peaked my interest. I wasn’t exactly sure on the plot, but I knew it involved Saddam Hussein in the 80’s, and they were kind of like gangsters back then. Terrorism is really just high-level international gang war. Dick Chainy & Colin Powell are part of a gang, the United Suckas of Ameri-kizzil; they’ve got tattoos and hand signals and stuff. Bad Ass Mo Fos.
Anyway, I finally picked a winner, and this movie kicked ass. Of course, halfway through everyone left because they had lives and better stuff to do (a reason they were so hesitant to pick a title to begin with), so for all they know, the movie totally bombs after the guy gets hacked up with the carving knife. This may not win any Academy Awards, but an exciting & dramatic action film like this definitely qualifies as a good time.
The highlight is the star of the film: Dominic Cooper. This guy played Iron Man‘s dad in Captain America & Lincoln’s buddy in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Not exactly memorable roles but high profile none the less. Cooper (a Brit) plays both Uday Hussein (Saddam’s son) and Latif Yahia (the man who would become Uday’s body double). For the first half of this movie, I was convinced it was two individual actors who just sort of looked alike. I’m not kidding, this man’s performances (as Uday, as Latif, & as Latif playing Uday) are superb. His physical mannerisms make it hard to believe it is just one man. It wasn’t until I saw Latif make the transition and begin to embrace his position as the impersonator of an evil man, put in the teeth, yell and break stuff, that I could see what Cooper was doing.
There are slight, superficial physical differences. Uday has a gap in his teeth and wears his hair looser, Latif is more composed. But the way the characters carry themselves, I swear to Thor they inhabit two different bodies. And Dominic Cooper thrives in both of them. As someone who takes to the stage from time to time (check out my upcoming production of FUN & NOBODY [shameless plug]), the only thing I could think while watching him is “That just looks like so much fun!” Playing Uday, a sadistic creep determined to be the happiest psycho on the planet, would be a blast unto itself, but then getting to add the levels of a man watching in horror as he is asked to embody and emulate this monster. The urge to resist the luxuries offered in cars, food, and women that he would need to take in order to maintain his illusion. This one acting job is the opportunity of a lifetime and Cooper drives it like he stole it.
As soon as Latif is asked to be a political decoy, he sees “a woman,” “THE woman,” whatever. Clearly, this is the one he is supposed to avoid, even though his body guard gives him specific instructions “Do not touch without Uday’s permission,” the viewer knows this woman is going to be his downfall. But they manage to dance around this cliche with limited involvement and it maintains it’s own story within the story without taking away from anything else. Uday’s playboy tendencies stir up a fair amount of trouble, flirting with school girls, leading them to their own demise, he even forces everyone to get naked for his birthday party because, let’s face it, it’s not a birthday party until everyone is in their birthday suit. Not that it justifies it, but eventually (historically? All this is based on a true story but the true story might all be a lie. It was never confirmed Latif was Uday’s double, nor is there evidence Uday even used a double) Uday get’s shot in the… well, watch the movie, you’ll see.
We in America are taught these guys were the badguys, and this movie never shies away from that fact, but it brings a lot of humanity to the Husseins, their people, and the people of Iraq. Iran? No, I was right, Iraq. Iraq was fighting Iran. I don’t know why. As established, I was never a history/geography major. Anyway, Uday’s bodyguard, or I guess he’s Latif’s bodyguard because even decoys need them, has a respect for his duty and country. Uday’s infamous carving scene is due to his love for family (or hatred of family dishonor, but same difference). The best little bit was while walking the grounds, Uday sees Saddam playing tennis with one of his doubles. Or maybe it was two doubles playing tennis; according to Arrested Develpment, Saddam Hussein had plenty of doubles (tripples? Are they still “doubles” if there are a dozen of them?). There’s a moment where Latif is about to lose a finger and Uday is super pissed. Took me a minute to realize, he doesn’t care about his “friend;” if Latif is missing something, Uday’s got to miss it too or else they can’t be doubles. Ever see The Prestige? No? Never mind. I don’t want to ruin anything for you. The most bad ass (grammatically correct) part of the flick is when Uday gets the phone call from his dad. Trying to avoid spoilers, I won’t give it away, but when it happens, you’ll understand. It shows where Latif gets his bad-assery from. “From where Latif gets his bad-assery?” Don’t end sentences in a preposition.
I’m a rebel without a cause. I’m a white, middle class, straight male. There is no pride day or parade rally for me, I guess because every day is good to be me. And that being said, there’s a lot to be learned from seeing the middle east in the 80’s. The way of life, the daily threats, the loss and decimation. I mean, that stuff is still going on today, and occasionally I’ll donate or pin a ribbon or fly a flag, but c’mon people, work on your issues. A good rule of thumb is “don’t be a dick.” If you find yourself bordering on this rule, or questioning if you’re about to break it, you’re doing better than a lot of others. If you never question your own prickishness, you’re probably a huge one (with a little one).
The Devil’s Double
Based on The Devil’s Double by Latif Yahia
Directed by Lee Tamahori
Corsan; Lionsgate; Herrick Entertainment