The Devil’s Double

The Devil’s Double is a recently released movie about by Latif Yahia, who was a body double for Uday Hussein, Saddam Hussein’s sadistically insane son.   Uday was a heavy drug user, a womanizer, and like most tyrants, a law unto himself.  He was feared, not only because of the power he wielded, but because he was so erratic and violent.  For instance, in 1988, at a party for the Egyptian president’s wife, Uday reportedly murdered, in public view, one of his father’s main personal assistants by bludgeoning him with a cane and finishing him off with an electric carving knife.  As head of the Iraqi Olympic committee and soccer federation, he was known to torture athletes who failed to win in competitions.  He would kidnap and rape young women taken in broad daylight from the streets, including one women who was walking with her husband. He raped and beat her, and the husband was sentenced to death for daring to prevent this from happening.  When U.S. troops killed Uday in 2003, it was found that he had bought or stolen 1200 luxury vehicles, had millions of dollars of fine wines, stashes of heroin and had a private zoo where he kept lions and cheetahs.

Yahia was a captain on the front in the Iran-Iraq war.  With an unfortunate and uncanny resemblance to Uday, Yahia was pulled out by Iraqi intelligence and forced to undergo cosmetic surgery so to become Uday’s body double. Yahia survived 11 assassination attempts aimed at Uday, before escaping Iraq in 1991.  Uday had his Yahia’s father killed in retribution.  Yahia wrote about his time as Uday’s body double in a book called The Devil’s Double, from which this movie is based.

The above background is so sensational, where fact is more astounding than any fictional story can portray, it is amazing it took this long for a movie to be made depicting this story.  Unfortunately, the movie is too sleek and stylized, where even the extensive graphical violence has too glossy of a look to it.  I am not sure how to play or depict a psychopath like Uday; he certainly comes across as crazy in the movie, but the brutality seems to come across in a gory Scarface-like manner where it is as much the shown violence that shocks instead of the violence itself which needs no such glorification of its brutality. The characters are one dimensional (a savage dimension at that), leaving one wanting a deeper portrayal of the evil that is represented by Uday.

Also, what fails to come across is how the tyrannic system in Iraq (or anywhere for that matter) creates people like Uday.  I think even a few minutes at the beginning of the movie giving a view into his youth and upbringing, the son of a brutal dictator himself, would have provided much needed deeper meaning to the movie.  As it is now, it is the story of Yahia’s search for a way out of the role he was forced to play.  While certainly that in and of itself is a good story, I believe a movie like this could stand to provide a deeper meaning than this simple man versus man conflict.  Yahia needed to do more than escape from Uday, he needed to escape from the entire corrupt system, which in itself reflects the larger struggle all people living in such dictatorships face.

The movie was directed by Lee Tamahori, from a screenplay by Michael Thomas, based on a novel by Latif Yahia.  Dominic Cooper plays both Uday and Yahia.

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