At one point in "The Devil's Double," Saddam Hussein's son, Uday (Dominic Cooper), utters loudly in a local market, "I love cunts more than I love God." This pretty much sums up the entire texture of the film; Hollywood loves sex, and it sells. After the movie ended, there was very little I could remember about the characters. The only thing that stuck with me was how well I was able to define Uday's character. Uday was a pedophile, a sex addict, and a rapist who used his erections more than his brain. From one segment to the next, we are taken into Uday's dark world, in which his deadly obsession for sex would make him the most-feared man in the Hussein's regime. He would pick up schoolgirls, rape soon-to-be-married women, and sleep with girls in nightclubs. Somehow Uday, through his power and money, managed to find girls to satisfy his sexual lust. But all this was done forcefully and brutally. In one scene, out of sheer frustration and anger, Saddam Hussein holds Uday's member and warns him that if he doesn't exercise control, he would cut it off and throw him out of the regime. You see, Uday was doing not doing anything with his life except having sex and thinking about sex, and how he would pick his next girl. At least this is the portrait offered on Uday Hussein to us.
At what point can a "biopic" can be truly called a "biopic"? The problem is an abundance of sex that becomes a continuous source of distraction, which if restrained, could have made for a compelling story line. I was confused whether I was watching an authentic biopic, or a Hollywood spin on Uday's life, or a fictionalized tale of a sex-crazed maniac. Well, after watching one of the bonus features, I concluded that this picture is a Hollywood's take on Uday, although the filmmakers cherry-picked the "sexual" aspect by over emphasizing it. Director Lee Tamahori explains in this feature that his intention was not to create a biopic, but rather an action film on Iraq's rogue regime. As it stands, the film is incomplete because the plot sheds no light on Uday's character apart from his aberrant sexual behavior. His interaction with the outside world is driven by his urge to satisfy his sexual needs.
As per the movie credits, the movie was marketed as "based on the life story" of Latif Yahia, whereas in fact, the idea for the film originated from Yahia's memoir, "The Devil's Double." Surely, "The Devil's Double" is constructed as a biopic for which the filmmakers have conveniently focused on elements that would make this film more entertaining and appealing. In the process, the filmmakers have dropped important events that shaped Uday's life and personality. The notable omissions were Uday's brief private imprisonment for killing Saddam Hussein's valet at a party and Uday's complex relationship with his mother, which was never fully explored. I kept on thinking, Why was there a need to create a film on Uday's life? Perhaps there is only one reason: sex.
Even though the movie is about Uday's body-double, Latif (Dominic Cooper), it feels we are watching a movie about Uday's life, which is mainly driven by what Latif sees when he is around Uday. But the background on Latif's character is not fully developed. We learn about his role in the army during the Iran-Iraq war, but this detail was provided to us in a short exchange. In addition, Latif came from a well-off family; however, this aspect about Latif's family is implied, without ever stressing it. As such, Latif's character feels like a stranger and a misplaced entity in Uday's world. The script has properly developed this facet of Latif's character, because for the most part, Latif felt conflicted, bound by his job acting as a body-double.
At least in the performance aspect, "The Devil's Advocate" is a rewarding experience, boosted by Cooper's dynamite performance in playing the dual characters of Uday and Latif. His portrayal of Uday's character is fun to watch; a bit over-the-top, packed with a maniac intensity, projecting Uday's unpredictable behavior that bordered on insanity. Cooper effectively depicts Uday as a psychopath who was blinded by power, money, and sex. But Cooper's performance as Latif is more graceful. If Uday is volatile, then Latif is quite the opposite: always calm and thinking hard. Latif fears that living under Uday's shadow, power and lust will destroy him someday. He does not agree with Uday's methods, and their disagreements lead to some thrilling on-screen action.
Other than Cooper's performance, "The Devil's Double" didn't do much for me. I didn't care much for Uday's real-life expositions, nor do I care to learn about his being a meaningless sexual predator. There is nothing to be learned from Uday's life, and all that is presented to us works well if not taken seriously. More so, the filmmakers' propensity to infuse sex into everything make this movie like a regular run-of-the-mill actioner. Despite the negatives, however, I felt drawn by the body-double aspect of the film, and that to Latif's character.
Lionsgate presents "The Devil's Double" in a gorgeous-looking 1080p transfer, encoded using the AVC codec and framed in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Right from the start, this is a vibrant-looking transfer, with deep, saturated colors that are lively and vivid. The outdoor scenes are bright and clear, with deep blue skies. The detail and sharpness is terrific and stay consistently solid throughout. The close-ups are well detailed, too. Likewise, the skin tones are realistic and warm looking.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is robust and dynamic sounding. The dialogue gets a boost and remains fairly audible and clear during the movie's entire duration. The action sequences are captured well by this track, and we hear nice detail sounds coming from guns and bullets. The surround channels are triggered in action as well as nightclub sequences.
First, we get an audio commentary track with director Lee Tamahori that digs deeper into various filmmaking aspects of this project. Following this we get three short featurettes, "Double Down with Dominic Cooper," "The Real Devil's Double," and "True Crime Family," that get deeper into historical details surrounding Hussein's reign over Iraq. We also learn about the Uday's tense relationship with his father, and how Uday's younger brother was considered the automatic choice to succeed Saddam Hussein to lead Iraq. Cooper discusses his character and the challenges posed in played two characters at the same time. Director Lee Tamahori discusses why he never wanted this film to be a biopic, and he talks about the script and casting choices. Also, included are the theatrical trailers of the film.
I couldn't understand why the filmmakers felt so compelled to capture the life of a sex maniac. I guess sex sells, and that is the reason we have this movie. In spite of several missteps in the storytelling department, "The Devil's Double" encompasses Dominic Cooper's captivating performance that is worthy of an Oscar nomination. It captures your attention from the first scene, and Cooper alone manages to build tension by realistically developing intense on-screen exchanges between Uday and Latif.