The Devil’s Double
Directed by Lee Tamahori
Uday Hussein and his body double Latif make a strange couple: in The Devil’s Double, a smart and ontologically complex gangster movie, they represent the duality of man, the clash of id and ego, even the realization of Narcissus’s longing. Indeed, Latif’s tragedy is like that of the clone, who tries to assume another’s identity but cannot extinguish his own.
This is the problem of the actor, too—a parallel that appears more plainly in Kurosawa’s Kagemusha—though for the lead here it’s double trouble. Dominic Cooper plays Uday and Latif, delivering two dazzling performances as two outwardly distinct personalities, right down to the vocal registers. As Latif, Cooper speaks in a low voice, and carries himself with dignity. His cool eyes belie his persistent wariness. As Uday, Cooper speaks nasally at a high pitch, grinning ear-to-ear like a puppy, front teeth protruding like a little boy. It’s the difference between the disenfranchised and the powerful, manifested physically.
Uday, the modern-day Arabian prince, lives like an American drug dealer, surrounded by weapons, women, drugs, cars and designer clothes; he’s steeped in Western decadence down to the discotheques, where he snorts cocaine and grinds against women. “My cock is well known in Baghdad,” he tells Latif. “I love cunt more than I love God.” The Husseins are not exactly Taliban. It’s like Tony Montana elevated to emir, suggesting that to idealize crime lords is to celebrate tyrants. We may love our gangsters, our tales of lavish underworld debauchery—director Lee Tamahori quotes Coppola’s beloved Godfather with a shoot-out at a vehicle checkpoint—but can the Scarface glorifiers really bring themselves to glamorize Uday Fucking Hussein? Cowardly, the movie offers them an out with its tacit support for the U.S. invasion; not only does The Devil’s Double portray Iraq’s leadership as barbarous psychotics—Saddam comes close to gelding Uday by cutlass—but it also features lines like, “One day, when God wills it, we will have justice.” One day like March 19, 2003, for example?
Opens July 29