Monday 5 December 2011

Review: The Devil's Double

Year: 2011
Director: Lee Tamahori
Screenplay: Michael Thomas
Starring: Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier

Synopsis is here

The main hook of The Devils Double is almost too bizarre to be true but the more you put into consideration the type of tyrants that we follow in throughout the film, the more typical the idea seems. Members of Saddam's family having doubles for certain occasions? Why the hell not? You can't be everywhere at once. It's even more handy when you consider the the high risk of assassination.

Based on the true story of Latif Yahia, The Devil's Double is a mixture of psychotic prince and unfortunate pauper as Latif is forced against his will to become the double for Saddam's Son Uday. Both roles are played by Dominic Cooper (I have only seen him in this and as Tony Stark's Dad in Captain America) a la Parent Trap Trickery (possibly) and yet you will never gain a moments confusion. Latif is stoic, upstanding and decent (although weakly accented by Cooper), while Uday is the type of Satan's gremlin that resides in the campfire stories of lesser villains in the films more showy yet stronger role.

Images and ideas of duality are abound, but no one will be looking at this with the identity struggle that inflicted the likes of Bergman's Persona, as the film plays out more in of the style of "Scarface in Iraq". Uday's world is one of excess over decency. Tyranny roams the landscape and Latif unfortunately must live in it as his likeness has seemingly trapped him in a unique hurt locker. That is keeps his sanity so well is not only a slight weakness of the film. His common decency makes him sympathetic, but almost saintly in consideration. Latif only falls into temptation with the flat female fatale character Sarrab; played by Ludivine Sagnier, whose allure is clear from her sultry looks and curves in the right places. This element of the film is not only typical of the genre the film is rolling in but also the most transparent. Sagnier's Sarrab has little to do apart from get Latif hot under the collar and boy does she. When Sagnier is given more to do the audience will probably not be surprised by what happens. This could be said of most of the narrative which delves into scenes of gory violence, sexual depravity and excess that would make Tony Montana feel slightly enviousness.

However, the film never lets up in terms of entertainment. Much like the little seen The Lincoln Lawyer, The Devil's Double works because it's a straight up crime film. Lee Tamahori has stated that the film is not supposed to be a political statement into the Iraq war and the bunkum idea that the film should completely follow the tracks of the true story, makes sure that the film can concentrate in being an avalanche of excess and madness. Strangely in it's extremity the film help create a particular kind of insight.While everything may not happen as the film states, it highlights the decadence of the regime it follows. Nearly all of the craziness is compiled in Cooper's whiny, buck toothed, bug eyed performance of Uday, who is as vile as he is fascinating. The battle that Cooper manages to instigate with himself is itself the reason to watch this film. If not for journey man Tamahori's assured direction of both action and drama. Nasty images of the invisible car fade have been replaced for a particularly golden palette and neatly crafted set pieces.

The Devils Double has Dominic Cooper fighting himself in more ways than one but it's a shame that the film keeps the polar opposites exactly as they are and refuses to make them merge. It's the seductiveness of the dark side (no matter how chaotic) that is missing from what is an effective and stylish crime film.