Dominic Cooper blows the screen away. He does double duty here playing Uday Hussein and his reluctanct, to put it mildly, stand-in, Lateef Yahia. Cooper, like any actor worth his salt, must have jumped at the chance to play these rolls. One, a complete an utter sadistic asshole who happens to be the son of another sadistic asshole, Saddam Hussein. The other roll, an innocent family man who, unfortunately for him, looks an awful lot like Uday the asshole. You know what, asshole is too nice a term. This is a true story, albeit dramatic license was used to condense certain elements for time. Uday Hussein was a pathetic spoiled child who was left to be whatever he wanted and he became worse than a psychopath. He was living proof that Man, with unlimited power and money will become evil. like the Devil. So that’s what we’ll call him, Devil. The filmmakers certainly felt the same way, since that’s the name of the film.
Anyway, Devil decided (in-between raping schoolgirls and torturing men) to kidnap an old schoolmate named Lateef so that he could force him to be his body double. You see, Devil needs a body double so that he doesn’t have to risk his life by going out into war zones giving speeches to the troops, attending boring state functions and the like. He gets to just keep doing evil things. He also doesn’t have any real friends. Since, Devil is absolutely in love with himself and Lateef looks just like him, he now keeps him right by his side when Lateef isn’t “working”. Devil introduces Lateef as his brother everywhere they go and the two are like Bert & Ernie. Devil & Lateef. So you get the picture.
This film was a surprisingly intense drama. When you realize that this asshole, sorry, Devil was terrorizing his own countrymen, you become sick. The film is set around the late 80’s and goes right into the first Gulf War in 1991. The filmmakers seem to make sure to not make this a political film, but more the personal tragic story of Lateef Yahia. It was shot beautifully and paced well. I would have taken out or shortened up a 20 minute chunk near the end that dealt with a double cross by one of the Devil’s wench’s. The sequence only served as a repetitive reinforcement of Uday’s, I mean Devil’s control over his “slaves”. It may have played better as well if the actress portraying this poor woman offered a little more three-dimensional portrayal.
I won’t say it’s the one of the best films I’ve seen this year, but it certainly is one hell of a performance by Dominic Cooper. So much so, that even while writing this review I forgot he played both Uday and Lateef. I haven’t seen a great gritty performance by someone since Tom Hardy in Bronson, I hope Cooper gets better recognition than Hardy did. He deserves every bit.
And to Lateef Yahia, I wish you a long life… wherever you are.