As people across the Arab world struggle to shake off the burdens of dictatorship, the release of The Devil’s Double, a slick English-language excursion into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, might seem either timely or insensitive. Shot in lurid, gilded tones; pulsing with pop decadence, the film is less an anatomy of authoritarian politics than a gangster movie. Mercedes-Benz sedans hurtle through the streets; men in dark suits and sunglasses share the screen with women in lingerie; guns are drawn and fired; and life is either a nonstop war or an endless party, or both.
The film’s evocations of the traditions of Scarface and The Sopranos are neither accidental nor inappropriate. The Husseins did resemble a classic Hollywood crime family — or at least that is how they appear in the 1980s and ’90s, when the movie takes place. Saddam (Philip Quast) is a grumpy, remote patriarch preoccupied with the daily business of tyranny. His ruthlessness at least appears to have some purpose. But the demon in The Devil’s Double is his son Uday (Dominic Cooper), whose waywardness is both the result of his father’s absolute power and a source of irritation to the old man.
© NY Times