Iraq, 1985. Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper), an Iraqi soldier fighting in the Iran-Iraq War, is called to become a "fedai" ("body double" or political decoy) for Uday Hussein (also played by Cooper), the playboy son of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein (Philip Quast). Latif comes from an upper-class family and had attended school with Uday, where the other students would remark on their likeness. Latif initially refuses the position, but is imprisoned and tortured, ultimately relenting when his family is threatened.
Latif undergoes minor cosmetic surgery to perfect his resemblance to Uday and, over the next three years, practices emulating the young Hussein's mannerisms and wildly volatile persona. He is given access to all of the luxurious benefits of the Husseins' fortune, including massive palaces, expensive wardrobes and Uday's Ferrari Mondial 3.2 and various other exotic cars. Latif tries to resist Uday's exorbitant merrymaking and erratic behavior, at one point fleeing a nightclub in another of Uday's Ferraris to attempt to see his family, who believe he has died in the war. However, he is apprehended by Uday's bodyguards and beaten. After an appearance at a conference with several Kuwaiti leaders, an attempt is made on Uday's (Latif's) life, apparently by a member of a rebel opposition group, possibly a Kurd. The real Uday, though, is more concerned with the Kuwaitis, who he believes have been slant drilling from Iraq's Rumaila oil field. Iraq invads Kuwait in August 1990 which begins the First Gulf War. With the fall of Kuwait, Uday proclaims "The Age of the Sheikhs is over!"
Uday's increasingly violent, sadistic tendencies are displayed when he kidnaps a 14 year-old school girl and forces her to escort him to a party. At the party, (based on an actual 1988 celebration honoring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's wife Suzanne), the strung-out Uday becomes enraged with his father's personal bodyguard Kamel Hana Gegeo (Mehmet Ferda). Uday believes Gegeo facilitated an affair between Saddam and Samira Shahbandar, which devastated his mother, Sajida Talfah, and he also expresses jealousy at the trust his father places in Kamel Hana. When Gegeo disrupts Uday's sexual advances towards his young victim, Uday butchers him with an electric carving knife in front of all of the guests. The next morning, Uday's bodyguards are seen dumping the naked, beaten body of the young girl.
Saddam immediately becomes furious over Uday's latest indiscrestion and pays him a visit to a local clinic after Uday accidently takes an overdose of sleeping pills to calm down. While Latif watches, Saddam gives Uday a severe beating in his hospital bed for the killing of Gegeo and even threatens to kill him, but calms down and decides to spare Uday because he is still his first-born son and heir to the leadership of Iraq. As Saddam leaves Uday's room he mutters to Latif, "I should have killed him at birth."
In January 1991, Latif, acting as Uday, is sent to Basra to rally support among Republican Guard soldiers as Coalition forces have taken control of the war. At Basra, another attempt is made on Latif's life. To Uday's great concern, Latif nearly loses a pinky in the assault, which presumably would mean Uday would have to have his amputated to maintain their resemblance, but doctors are able to save Latif's finger.
Later, Latif is confronted by the father of the young girl that Uday killed. Uday eavesdrops on the conversation and is outraged by the man's pleas for "justice" and "compassion." Uday orders Latif to kill the man, but Latif refuses and instead slits his own wrists, to Uday's amusement. After Latif recovers, he confronts Uday at his birthday party. The confrontation escalates to a shootout and Latif escapes in Uday's Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC with Uday's lover, Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier) whom has recently become romanticaly involved with Latif. The two escape to Malta, but Sarrab, fearing for her three-year-old daughter in Iraq, calls Uday begging for the chance to return without being harmed. A would-be assassin sent by Uday just misses shooting Latif almost as soon as they arrive on the island. Uday calls Latif and offers him one final chance to return to Iraq, threatening to kill his father if he refuses. Latif says he will not return and his father is killed.
Latif confronts Sarrab with her telling Uday where she is out of fear for her daughter's safety. Latif tells her that he will not help her get her daughter out of Iraq and tells her to leave, but gives her some money to live so she can live off of for a while. The distraught Sarrab walks out on Latif and goes off on her own.
However, Latif does return to Iraq, not to continue to serve as Uday's double, but rather to kill him, with the help of a man whose bride killed herself after being raped and beaten by Uday on their wedding day. In an adapted version of the attempt on Uday's life made by the 15th Shaaban in 1996, Latif and his partner ambush Uday while he is attempting to lure young girls into his Porsche 911 Targa. They wound him severely, including consistent with unconfirmed reports of the real-life attack mangling his genitals with a direct shot. One of Uday's bodyguards catches up to Latif as he flees the scene. The guard, however, is the same one who Latif could have killed as he fled from Uday's birthday party before leaving the country but spared, and the guard extends him the same courtesy.
A disclaimer in the final shots reveals that Latif Yahia currently lives somewhere in Ireland under a false name with his wife and two children and has written a book based on his life. Uday Hussein survived the assasination attempt, but was temporarily crippled, and made a partial recovery. He was later killed in 2003 by American troops during the Second Gulf War.