The Devil's Double


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Saddam Hussein and his sociopathic son Uday both employed body doubles. Like many people in Iraq under Saddam, the doubles were coerced into servitude in various ways, particularly by threats to their families. Uday's double, Latif Yahia, eventually managed to escape the clutches of his twin/captor, but did so at a great cost. True to his psychotic word, Uday Hussein killed Latif's father as revenge for the escape and "betrayal." Latif wrote a book about his experiences, and this film is an adaptation of that eponymous book.

The film is accurate in the sense that the events pictured on screen really happened, but they did not all happen in Latif's presence. The story got embellished like a secret whispered around a circle. When Latif wrote his book, he made it seem as if he had been an eyewitness to many events that he probably heard about second-hand. Because he was Uday's double, it's not likely that they were often in the same place together in public, yet this story makes it seem as if they were rarely separated. The screenwriter then offered some embellishments of his own. Latif, for example, has told interviewers that he was often with Uday in public because Uday was rebelling against his father's insistence that he use a body double. That explanation was no more compelling to the screenwriter than it probably is to you, so the film script overlays a story about how Uday made the body double search his personal project, and ended up falling in love with the double as an extension of himself. You may then be wondering how the film explains why, if Uday really believed in the value of the program, the twins are so often seen together in public, looking identical, and thus blowing the cover. The script doesn't really deal with that issue, which is confusing. We are left to conclude that Uday was insane, drug-addled, and reckless, and just didn't care if everyone knew he had an identical twin. That may not be accurate, but it's not unreasonable.

The film also shows Latif being an active participant in, and in fact the instigator of, the assassination attempt that left Uday partially crippled. Although the gun battle happens in a crowded urban area filled with Uday's bodyguards, Latif simply walks away in slow motion, like a character walking away from an explosion in a bad action movie cliche. He is spotted by one of the bodyguards, but that particular guy spares Latif's life in repayment of a similar kindness in the past. The assassination scene is pictured much as it really happened, but I couldn't find anything in the historical record to place Latif in that scene. I haven't read his book, so I don't know if the dramatic and highly cinematic embellishments were created by Latif for the book, or by the screenwriter for the film.

Not that it matters. The story pictured in the film is substantially true; it's fascinating; and it's told well. The most comparable recent film is The Last King of Scotland. If you liked that one, you'll like this one for most of the same reasons. It held my attention from start to finish and got me to the edge of my seat more than once. Uday's abusive life is pictured in all of its violent madness, thus graphically illustrating Lord Acton's famous axiom about absolute power. Uday picks up schoolgirls, rapes them, beats them, then throws them away, often after they have died. He tortures and beats Iraqi athletes who fail to win international competitions. Waving his golden pistol and backed by his entourage of thugs, Uday makes all the glamorous guests at his birthday party get naked. They comply because it's better to be naked and alive than a spiffy corpse. In scene after scene, Uday goes through a seemingly endless string of sex partners and a bottomless reservoir of cocaine. He's the Iraqi Scarface.

The casting was unusual. Englishman Dominic Cooper played both Uday and Latif. French actress Ludivine Sagnier, normally a blue-eyed blond, played an Iraqi courtesan with an integral role in the story, as the lover of both of the twins. She did change her hair color for the role, but did not wear contacts. There were those who criticized this casting, based on the general modern belief that ethic roles should be played by actors of similar ethnicity. I agree with that in general, and I think we've come a long way since Al Jolsen wore blackface, but I didn't see any problem with the casting here. Except for Sagnier's hair color, both actors performed with their natural coloration and features, yet Cooper looked very much like the real Uday Hussein.

I'd say that Cooper's performances were two of the best this year.

The DVD and Blu-Ray special features have not been announced as this page is being written.





3 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
53 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
52 (of 100)


7.1 IMDB summary (of 10)


Box Office Mojo. It never reached more than 89 theaters and grossed only about a million dollars in the USA.


  • Ludine Sagnier showed T&A very briefly in a sex scene.

  • Many men and women showed full frontal and rear nudity in a scene where Uday forced all of his party guests to get naked.



Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Powerful historical re-creation, ala "Last King of Scotland"