Blu-ray Review: The Devil’s Double

The Devil's Double Blu-raySTUDIO: Lionsgate | DIRECTOR: Lee Tamahori | CAST: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Philip Quast, Raad Rawi
RELEASE DATE: 11/15/2011 | PRICE: DVD $29.95, Blu-ray $39.99
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, interview
SPECS: R | 108 min. | Biographical action drama | 2.39:1  widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

 

The Devil’s Double is based on the autobiographical book by Latif Yahia, a former Iraqi army lieutenant who in the late 1980s was ordered to become the “fiday”—the body double—of Saddam Hussein’s sadistic son Uday. With his own life and that of his family threatened, Yahia underwent “training” and plastic surgery to enhance his resemblance to Uday and was then thrust into a “life” of opulence in Uday’s inner circle, a lifestyle that also included such acts of nastiness as murder, torture, rape and drug use. Oh, and he was also founded himself playing the role of Uday’s best friend. Yahia ultimately fled Iraq in the early 1990s, while Uday was killed by a U.S. Special Forces team in 2003.

The Devil's Double movie scene

Dominic Cooper goes the "Scarface" route in The Devil's Double.

Though the last couple of years have seen many journalists come forth and declare that Yahia’s story is a hoax, the movie that tells the tale is a solid one, though the fascination lies more in the material than the filmmaking. Director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) succeeds primarily at painting a colorful picture of late-Eighties Baghdad, its pulsing nightlife and the Hussein family’s glittering palaces—and it all looks deliriously garish in its Blu-ray presentation. Uday’s life as it’s presented is over-the-top, decadent and deplorable even as its “enjoyable” to watch, though the images of hardcore violence and torture and Uday’s demented lusting for teenage girls are quite disturbing. But though we’re hooked early on, as the movie progresses and Latif plots his escape, it begins to turns into a Bourne Identity-like thriller. By the hard-to-believe final third, any emotional resonance and psychological insight into the characters begins to get lost amidst the chases and gunfire.

Leading man Dominic Cooper (Captain America; The First Avenger) is outstanding in his dual portrayals of Uday and Latif, with the two frequently appearing on screen together via some clever camera set-ups and digital manipulation. Gorgeous French starlet Ludivine Sagnier (Mesrine: Public Enemy #1), who can be seen and heard to better effect in films where she speaks her native tongue, is adequate as Uday’s favorite mistress, a lady who eagerly shares her bed with Latif, as well, before falling in love with him.

The bonus features include a standard making-of featurette, a short piece on star Cooper (who admits that he’s never had to portray such a “nasty character”) and a feature=-length commentary Tamahori, who’s at his most engaging when he discusses the aspects of the story that were fictionalized and how he and his production team recreated the look of the era while shooting on location in and around Malta. (No, they didn’t shoot in Iraq.)

Most interesting is an eight-minute interview with the real Latif Yahia, filmed on-set where he was serving as a consultant. In English (with subtitles), Latif speaks of his history with Uday (they were classmates as children and then in university) and how the CIA engineered his escape from Iraq. According to Latif, he’s been living in Ireland for the past 11 years with his Irish wife and their two children.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.