Imagine Caligula crossed with a drug-addled gangbanger, and you’ve got the essence of this lurid biopic, which marks Dominic Cooper’s emergence from supporting parts (An Education, Mamma Mia!) to a dual starring role. He plays both Uday Hussein, the depraved eldest son of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and Latif Yahia, Uday’s former classmate and now his reluctant body double. Whether kidnapping schoolgirls, raping a bride on her wedding day, snorting cocaine, or disemboweling his father’s close associate, playboy Uday is pure id, while clear-eyed Latif is his superego, glowering but ineffectual. Equally as offensive as the movie’s smorgasbord of smut and violence is the lingering whiff of colonial-era orientalism, a Western predilection for regarding Eastern cultures as innately idle, lascivious, irrational, and thus ripe for intervention. Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors, Die Another Day) directed this adaptation of Yahia’s book; with Ludivine Sagnier.
The Devil’s Double
R • 1 hour 49 min • 2011