“The Devil’s Double,” a new drama starring Dominic Cooper in the dual role of Saddam Hussein’s eldest son and heir apparent Uday and his look-a-like body double and body guard, captures much of the surface details of the decadence of the life of the son of a dictator, but what it lacks is insight into the mind of a madman.
Out of Sundance “The Devil’s Double” garnered lots of attention for Cooper’s performance. He plays two characters, one a pampered party boy with a taste for sex, drugs and disco music. The other an unwilling participant in the madness who was forced to become Uday’s body double. Its attention grabbing work which displays his range as an actor, but unfortunately he is hemmed in by a script that values overkill (literally) over nuance.
Painted in very broad strokes Uday simply comes off as a Tony Montana clone without the snappy one liners or depth. He’s unpredictable yet, on film he’s a completely predicable bad guy. Imagine a casting call for the son of a dictator and this is who Central Casting would send over. Perhaps it’s because Uday had so little character in real life that Cooper has such a hard time finding the character on the big screen.
Also, it doesn’t really help that for much of the movie Cooper resembles the late, lamented lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, more than Uday.
Better is his take on Latif Yahia, the stoic stand in. With the theatrics of Uday gone he reveals a more understated and more interesting performance, but his better work is overshadowed by the bombast of the rest of the movie.
“The Devil’s Double” isn’t about the stunt double performance, or the violence. In fact, it isn’t about anything much at all. With no insight as to how Uday became a murderous playboy—he’s insane, we’re told once or twice—the movie comes across as a unilayered sensationalist portrait of the absolute corruption of absolute power, but little more.