It’s hard to believe that The Devil’s Double doesn’t intend to be a put-on. Despite a real-life basis of its plot, Lee Tamahori’s fierce depiction of hedonistic Saddaam Hussein spawn Uday Hussein relegates the character to a farcical cartoon. Looking like a macabre Groucho Marx, Dominic Cooper portrays Uday as a leering, cigar-puffing womanizer who alternates between scowling and grating hyena guffaws.
Cooper takes on a second role as well, playing the innocent Latif Yahia, Uday’s lookalike who was forced against his will into becoming Uday’s body double. As Yahia, Cooper delivers a vastly superior performance, wearing the dazed expression of a good man trapped in pure evil. He’s also a good actor trapped in a bad movie.
Many of the problems with The Devil’s Double stem from the nature of its narrative. Clearly produced for an English-speaking audience, the movie adopts an illogical method in which characters speak English with vaguely defined “foreign” accents. That unfortunate decision only enhances a synthetic quality that dominates each scene. Cooper’s dual role is an equally transparent gimmick: The men look, unsurprisingly, like twins. The contrast provides a constant reminder that Cooper works better with soft-spoken characters and not poorly scripted “SNL” characterizations.