The Devil’s Double: News Flash: Saddam Hussein’s Family Was Messed Up

The embellishment of a memoir by Latif Yahia, once forcibly employed as a public stand-in for Saddam Hussein’s psychopathic son, Uday, The Devil’s Double, set in an English-language Baghdad, stars Anglo actor Dominic Cooper in the leading double role. Bucktoothed and pop-eyed, Cooper’s Uday is a sadistic, oversexed Bugs Bunny; Latif is distinguished by the air of stone-faced disapproval with which he watches Uday, and the defining Anglo lilt he speaks with, apparently indicating his civility. (Other leading roles are filled by white actors Orientalized through wigs and the film’s blown-out gold-tinted palette, including Ludivine Sagnier’s concubine torn between twins.) Uday’s unchecked violence doesn’t so much spiral out of control as coast along a plateau of amorality; as witness, Latif remains stoic and impermeable to his doppelgänger’s corrupting influence. Ignoring all but the most obvious tensions in the Uday/Latif symbiosis, The Devil’s Double is static drama, with Michael Thomas’ script establishing relationships as if perfunctorily pressing buttons marked “Father/Son Dynamic” and “Forbidden Love Affair,” failing to dignify these themes with individuality. You leave Lee Tamahori’s film thoroughly convinced that Uday Hussein was a monster. In all likelihood, you entered the movie with the same certainty. This raises the question: What was the point, exactly?