The Devil’s Double – Movie Review

Uday Hussein, whom his father Saddam Hussein called “psychotic,” was a lightning rod for trouble. He was a rapist, murderer, torturer, sex and drug addict and political instigator who was given free rein in his native Iraq. 

He had a habit of kidnapping schoolgirls, and murdering them after raping, drugging and torturing them. The Hussein family was not to be defied, on pain of death (as the world knows), but Uday took things so far he scared his father – quite a feat considering the allegations made against Saddam.

According to this film Uday was not burdened with a conscience or remorse for his many wrongdoings, but he was certainly aware that they put him in danger.  He required the services of a double to stand in for him when he made public appearances.

He was wise to do so – there were eleven assassination attempts made against his double, Latif Yahia.  Yahia a classmate who bore a striking resemblance to him, who was taken forcibly and retooled with plastic surgery, threats and indoctrination to “be” Uday as his body double.  Yahia hated the Hussein regime and especially Uday but there was little he could do.

The film is based on Yahia’s biography, The Devil’s Double, in which he describes witnessing the gory depraved world of Uday Hussein as a member of the inner circle.  There are horrific details of Uday butchering of his father’s valet and food taster at a banquet and routine entrapment and regular deadly abuse of women. 

Yahia lived in eye-popping, slightly tasteless Hussein opulence in which every appetite was sated, but for Yahia, it was torture in every possible sense of the word. 

Today, Yahia lives somewhere in Europe with his wife and children, far from the turbulence of the Middle East and blogs for freedom on his website ( 

Playing the double role of Uday and Yahia is an impressive accomplishment for Dominic Cooper (Captain America, An Education).  His physical resemblance to the real life subjects is uncanny and he plays opposite ends of the character spectrum – a psychopathic despot unraveling and a morally upright man caught in a gilded trap.  To seem him boil with insane rage and ponder it at the same time in such different personas is amazing.

Uday is painted as an extreme character but his bad ass daddy Saddam comes off somewhat sympathetically, a strange choice. He is the exasperated, helpless sap who watches his son and does nothing to help him except nearly castrate him, glaring looks aside.

It’s so wrong it inspires nervous laughter.  Oh and Uday has some weird relationship with his doting mother that finds them nestled in bed together, ordering hits along with champagne. 

What may surprise many is the vivid portrait of Baghdad’s bizarre, hyped-up “western” nightlife, where patrons of a club strip naked for Uday who’s aiming for their humiliation not his titillation. 
The air is positively soaked with drugs, sex and gunfire there at the heart of Muslim Iraq.  But that’s not the only hypocrisy we witness, this is a wild west of a world where someone like Uday could thrive behind a double,  his very own bullet catcher.

This is an extremely fast paced, jolts-per-second kind of a movie that beats us over the head with violence and depravity and who’s to tell if it’s an authentic portrayal?  It’s a meaner Smokin’ Aces, a sadistic Crank and a crazy world unto itself.  If you can take the heat, it’s quite the ride, if not, this is not for you.

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35mm drama
Written by Michael Thomas, Latif Yahia
Directed by Lee Tamahori
Opens July 29
Runtime: 108 minutes
MPAA: Restricted
Country: Belgium
Language: English