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I saw "The Devil's Double" at the Berlinale 2011. An unusual large
number (over 300) stayed for the full 30 minutes of Q&A after the
screening. The producer warned us that we should expect not too much of
the political impact of this film. It is better (his words) to regard
it as just a gangster movie. We also learned that the stand-in
situation that seemed compressed here in a smaller time frame, in fact
existed for a full 4 years. We saw that Latif succeeded in keeping his
hands reasonably clean, but it cannot have been real for such a time
span. We still may wonder how much of this life he was pulled-in,
against his will and his nature, but nevertheless being part of it.
According to the film maker, what we saw was in more respects not completely accurate. Some freedom was exercised while portraying the situation in Baghdad at that time. The existence of stand-in's, however, was realistic and publicly known. That went as far as showing them openly, if only to confuse potential attackers. It certainly reduced the risk in public appearances, since one could never know whether you saw the real one, or a double dressed and acting like the real one.
There were also questions about using English as the prime language. The producer had some arguments in favor of the choices made. Firstly, raising a 50M budget for a movie with Arabic speaking actors, was considered a Mission Impossible. Also, English is generally accepted as the standard movie language, spoken by Roman emperors as well as aliens from other planets.
The Q&A also revealed some facts about how Dominic Cooper handled his double role. We now know that he played both roles on the same day, given the entourage and colleague actors present that day. He always played the "lunatic" parts first, and (without much time in between) the "Latif" parts shortly after that. Of course, there was a challenge in keeping track of the places where the counterpart actor stood at particular moments during the scene. Anyway, if he missed a few and looked in a wrong direction at some instances, I did not notice it and I think the same of other people seeing this film for the first time.
At various moments throughout the screening the notion crossed my mind that this movie could be construed as a justification of overturning the Sadam regime, or (in other words) as propaganda in favor of George W for a completed project in Iraq. In retrospect, I don't think such a hidden meaning was intended. The film was not against Sadam as a dictator in particular, but rather against dictators in general. They existed and ruled since the time of the Roman emperors (and probably before that), and still are ruling nowadays in countries all over the world. We see the wrong side effects of unlimited power. We also see how uncooperative people were regarded "that is the thanks we get for uplifting this country" (or variations thereof).
Political issues and hidden meanings set aside, we saw a well constructed story line, believable casting, and an inside view in the palace and its inhabitants at that time. One can argue about the torture, punishment and other violent scenes, that these better could be left out, or otherwise included implicitly by telling about it (without showing actual pictures). On the other hand, leaving these out would change the film too much into a costume drama, thereby reducing the impact it now will have on the average viewer. Anyway, it is easy for us to criticize choices being made by the film makers. In my opinion they did their job very well, all things considered.
After the slew of Iraq movies, all of them from the American soldiers
perspective (Green Zone, The Hurt Locker, Three Kings) I found the
subject matter of this film to be a refreshing change. What most people
know or remember of Gulf war one, is completely overshadowed by Gulf
war Two/ Iraqi Freedom. So to be able to go back in time and get a
glimpse of Baghdad in it's hey day was a remarkable break from "Victory
movies", this is the only movie about Iraq to date as seen from an
Iraqi viewpoint. Yes, it's violent (not necessarily moreso than Saw,
Texas chainsaw massacre et al) but then since it is a portrayal of
events in a real persons life would you want it any other way? Dominic
Cooper is just fantastic, he inhabits both characters flawlessly and
for the most part you genuinely believe that he is two people.
As for the excess, obscenity, gratuitous violence and material wealth that some other reviewers have complained about, well, that was Bagdad in the '80's, does it have to be dressed up in Military Fatigues screaming "U.S.A" to be a good movie? If you liked Scarface, if you want an action packed ride, if you love depth of colour and sound in your movie. If you want to see great acting from Dominic Cooper, then this is the movie for you.
When you go see it, ask yourself, what would you have done in the same situation as the main character Latif Yahia? Could you have survived, because, unless you hadn't heard it is based on a true story.
Watch and Enjoy, I have watched it twice and want to watch it again because each time I watch it I can't believe it's over, I want more! Stories like this don't come around everyday. Unless of course you want to watch another Hurt Locker, it may have won a lot of Oscars but The Devil's Double deserves more.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw The Devil's Double at the Sundance Film festival back in January. I didn't really know anything about the story, but there was such a buzz about it at the festival I thought, why not? that's what festivals are for, watching movies you might not normally see. I wasn't sorry that I did, from the first scene until the last I was gripped, I found myself laughing at times when normally you wouldn't, but that was the great thing about it, it was a roller-coaster ride. A gangster movie set in Baghdad in the 80's, the fact that it's based on a true story doesn't really hit you until you walk out, and you completely believe that the lead Dominic Cooper is two different people. Fantastic. Even more fantastic is the fact that the guy who the movie is about Latif Yahia is still alive! I've seen some people rate this movie with one or two stars, nonsense, 11 out of 10 it's great! But don't believe me, spend a few dollars and make up your own mind, you won't be sorry, I certainly wasn't.
There are many ways to describe Uday Hussein, Saddam Hussein's oldest
son. None of them are positive.
The Devil's Double is a "take no prisoners" film that's as hard to watch as it is entertaining. It follows Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper), an Iraqi soldier from an upper class family, who is plucked from the war to act as Uday's double. Uday (also played by Cooper), remembers the comparisons the two would get when they jointly attended grade school. He asks Yahia to be his double - for both political and personal reasons. Like his father, Uday is in a constant state of worry over an assassination attempt. Further, he wants to send Yahia on personal trips that he himself doesn't wish to attend. Yahia, kind and warm, refuses, but is forced to with the threat of harm to his family. Yahia is given cosmetic surgery and dentures to complete the look.
Yahia is thrust into Uday's world. This is a world filled with rape, torture, murder, drugs, sex and money. The lifestyle that the Hussein's live is more than Presidential - it is royal. Immediately, Uday claims Yahia as his own property. Uday has grown into a monster, getting whatever he wants and never having to deal with the consequences. Yahia is who he wants. The atrocities he witnesses because of Uday disgust him, but he is stuck in this nightmare. We watch as Uday preys upon young girls walking home from school. We watch as he guts his father's best friend at a party. We watch Yahia struggle with the lifestyle he is forced to live. Uday's fascination with Yahia grows stronger and it enters your mind that Uday may actually be in love with his double. This doesn't necessarily mean in a romantic way, but because his love of himself is so great, that he sees Yahia as apart of himself.
While the rest, as they say, is history, I certainly don't want to spoil the way the rest of the film plays out. This is a movie that you must see for yourself!
The acting in dual roles by Cooper, his first film as lead, is Oscar worthy. He gives both men their own voices, mannerisms and idiosyncrasies, that instantly allow the viewer to tell them apart. Subdued and stoic, Cooper plays Yahia as a guilt ridden man, grappling with the life he has been thrust into. He plays Uday as a manic, hyper madman with a broken smile and a creepy laugh. You literally believe they are two different actors.
Latif is an ordinary man who is thrust into an extraordinary situation. An object of admiration for the President's son, he has no choice but to comply with the excruciating horrors that are put forth before him. Never once, however, do we seem his morals waver.
We know how it ends, but as with life, it's the journey that's important. The Devil's Double is the real life, Middle Eastern Scarface. Powerful, unsettling, thrilling and always entertaining, The Devil's Double, is quite easily one of the best movies of 2011.
I started loving this film within the first few seconds. This film has many redeeming features and I personally found it very enjoyable. Director Lee Tamahori brings a lot of the key Oscar-winning players of the Slumdog team back for this new film. Latif / Dominic Cooper The human connection element was most fascinating, as we wonder what we would do if placed in a similar situation ??? We are really "with" Latif on his journey, as we see him discover a reason to live and how his life perspective changes, not just how to get free from Uday Saddam. The Devil's Double, does not simply prove the point that humans will do whatever it takes to survive in dire circumstances. In fact, I might argue 9 of 10 people wouldn't do what Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper) does in this film. The Devil's Double, A Definite must-see 10/10 stars.
This film, although admittedly not a masterpiece, is not a 1 star film
This film has many redeeming features and I personally found it very enjoyable. In fact it's quite similar to Dorian Gray but loads better and nowhere near as monotonous. How a certain reviewer , who although has his own other personal opinions which I really respect, gave this film just 1 star out of 10 I do not know. One just has to watch the trailer to find out. Trust me, it deserves much more than that mark. Overall this is a great film and for me it lived up to my expectations. Despite some minor flaws I left rather satisfied at the end, certainly something 1 star films are not capable of doing.
It's after all how a film should be, rather enjoyable.
I saw this movie not realizing that both leads were being played by one
amazing actor!!! Dominic Cooper was exactly that: amazing. And
deserving of an Oscar nomination when the time comes for handing them
out. My film club was fortunate enough to have an interview with DC via
Skype and found him to be as charming as he is talented.
Some seem to find fault with this film because it reminds them of Scarface. I don't get that at all. Perhaps they mean that at times it is operatic, over the top, but it is, after all, a biopic about a crazy man, and to me anyway, the parts of the film that deal with the double offset the high drama perfectly. Highly recommended!
Saw this movie today at Berlinale and was pleasantly surprised that as
I walked out of it thought to myself that it's been a really long time
since I saw a decent movie like this. Before I looked Uday/Latif up on
the internet I had doubts about how close the plot was to reality,
turned out to be quite interesting showing that, well everything in the
movie has (kind of) happened. Makes it disturbing to know on a
The depiction of Uday's psychotic character throughout the movie seems very real and does not spare or cheat the viewers any disturbing torture/abuse scenes. Some people might dislike this, some maybe even enjoy it.
That being said I liked the overall acting, both main and lesser characters did a good job. And on a side note: i found the movie sets and props were quite awesome.
btw: I can still remember the news of Uday's and Qusai's deaths back in 2003, but that meant little to me at that time. At least now i know.
When they were filming Scarface I don't think they thought that the lines "Say hello to my little friends" was going to be absorbed into popular culture. Neither do I believe that Michael Thomas the screen writer of The Devil's Double think that the line above "I made you Latif, I MADE YOU !" would stick in the heads of not only me but my other friends who went to watch the Devil's Double last night. Based on the true story of Latif Yahia, the man forced to become the Fiday or body Double of Uday , Saddam Hussein's oldest and psychotic son. Both parts are played by actor Dominic Cooper ( Mamma Mia!, An Education, History Boys) a huge departure form his "softer" roles, where he usually plays a love interest or gentleman. He is so convincing, that you forget that you are watching one guy playing two roles, well actually three, Uday, Latif, Latif being Uday! It's confusing just saying it, try doing it! The film itself is loud, colorful and so '80's, not that I remember them very well but having seen a few '80's movies recently I marveled at where they got the shiny suits from! It is definitely a guy's movie, (but the girls will be captivated by Dominic in all his guises) and by that I mean fast cars, mustaches, cigars and lots of semi naked girls! There's a bit of a love triangle, Uday, Sarrab,(played by hot French actress Ludivine Sagnier, see The Swimming Pool) Latif. It's fast paced, action packed and does make you think, how could a guy survive that life? What were his options? Oh yeah, a bit of techie stuff, it was filmed on R.E.D the new digital system, see if you can tell the difference in picture quality. I enjoyed it, my bro's enjoyed it. See for yourself.
The posters for director Lee Tamahori's The Devil's Double (18) declare
it to be "Scarface of Arabia", referring both to Brian De Palma's 1983
gangster opus Scarface and the film's setting during Saddam Hussein's
brutal rule in Iraq. The Devil's Double is based on the true story of
Latif Yahia, an Iraqi soldier chosen by the regime to be the
body-double of the dictator's infamous son Uday, with both roles played
by Dominic Cooper.
The perks of the job are acceptable: enough designer clothing and willing women to make the average Premiership footballer looking like a trappist monk. However, the downsides are considerable too: torture, being shot at and the fact that the penalty for seeking alternative employment is the death of Latif's entire family.
Dominic Cooper stars in Devil's Double with Ludivine Sagnier.
Dominic Cooper stars in Devil's Double with Ludivine Sagnier.
It is easy to see why The Devil's Double has been compared to a gangster film. All the whirring, terrifying madness of Uday's world is depicted with the brutal verve one finds in Scarface and other films of its ilk. Instigating nightclub orgies while American bombs are exploding and shooting at loyal companions in psychotic rages are all part of Uday's regular routine.
The direction, intermingling footage of Operation Desert Storm with debauchery, captures the craziness of Uday and Latif's world with a lurid style.
Again, like a great underworld film, Cooper's performance as the central villain is masterful, capturing Uday's menacing madness and chewing the scenery in between sucking breasts or shovelling cocaine up his nose. His performance as Latif is equally striking, but in a more nuanced way. We are never in doubt which one Cooper is portraying; his sickened desperate body language showing through even when Latif is Uday.
Yet this film is not Scarface, and Uday is not Tony Montana. Tony Montana, like most anti-heroes found in films depicting criminals, had a form of morality. It may have been a twisted, cocaine-fuelled morality but it was one none the less. Uday has no morality; worse than that, he's evil even by the standards of his father, a man who thought nothing of gassing entire ethnic groups. This gives the film a heart of darkness. Uday is possibly one of the most horrifying characters ever to grace a cinema screen, proving it at regular harrowing intervals with crimes of a scarcely believable depravity.
This leads me to the film's central flaw. Despite Cooper's performance, Latif's story never quite feels as compelling as it should be. The script at times makes a good man's forced descent into hell on Earth seem more like a mob underling's troubled conscience upon witnessing his boss go too far. One scene, which directly juxtaposes his actions in saving others from Uday's horrors, doesn't have anywhere near the emotional resonance it should. One gets a sense that in trying to show us a world in which a moral compass is more likely to be thrust into the genitals of an innocent than providing any sort of guidance, the film has lost some of its humanity along with its protagonists.
Despite these flaws, though, The Devil's Double is still an excellent film. It is a brave attempt to portray a difficult and scarcely believable story. Even its failure to completely emote is understandable given the skill with which it presents its harrowing world. Due to this, and possibly the performance of the year from Dominic Cooper, its flaws are eminently forgivable.
Verdict: ●●●● A must-watch for Cooper's performance alone, but expect to be troubled as well as thrilled throughout.
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