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Featured DVD Review: The Devil's Double

November 22nd, 2011

The Devil's Double - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

The Devil's Double opened in limited released during the summer with mixed reviews. It did open well, but it struggled to hold onto its per theater count when it expanded. It did last long enough to reach $1 million during its run, which is much better than most limited releases manage, but it went no further than that. This sets up mixed expectations.

The Movie

The film begins with stock footage of the Iran / Iraq war before we see Latif Yahia being driven to an unknown location. Latif is a veteran of the war, who has been summoned to the palatial home of Uday Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein. Uday wants Latif to work for him, to be his fidai. Saddam has body doubles, who pretend to be him in public. Latif despises Uday, this much is clear, but he doesn't really have a choice. If he doesn't do what Uday wants, his family will be tortured and killed.

Officially, Latif dies a martyr in Iran. Unofficially, he's forced to undergo plastic surgery, get dental work, learn how to dress and act like Uday. Part of his reeducation includes watching torture tapes, hanging with Uday as he parties in clubs, etc. It's not a lifestyle he wants, but after Uday beats him when he tries to see his family, it's clear he has no choice. While acting as Uday's double, Latif sees the horrors he commits, but also connects with Sarrab, one of Uday's women. But as the crimes he witnesses become too much for him to take, he must look for a way to escape.

I'm of two minds when it comes to this movie. On the one hand, the performance of Dominic Cooper is amazing. Like the director, Lee Tamahori, said, he's really playing three roles: Latif Yahia, Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia playing Uday Hussein. His performance makes the movie worth watching. Watching the crimes Uday committed is difficult to take at times and the film struggles to find an appropriate tone. (As hard as it seems to some, the filmmakers say they toned it down some of the atrocities he committed.) It feels more like a gangster movie than a real life tale of political corruption and has been described by some as Scarface set in Iraq, and it is hard to argue with that comparison. I would have liked to have seen more character depth, which would have given the film more emotional impact.

While the central performance is amazing, the rest of the film is not up to that level and the overall result is merely good.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary track with Lee Tamahori, the director. As with many solo tracks, it doesn't have a huge amount of energy and there are a few too many pauses here and there, but it is still worth listening to. There are also three featurettes, starting with a sixteen-minute making of featurette. There is also a second, nine-minute making of featurette, but this one focuses on the dual-role and how it was filmed. Finally, there is an eight-minute featurette focusing on the real life Latif Yahia.

I don't have the Blu-ray to review, but it only costs 14% more. Even if there are no additional extras, it's still a good deal.

The Verdict

Dominic Cooper's performance in The Devil's Double is the best part of the movie. It is good enough that even though the rest of the movie is flawed, it is still worth watching. The DVD / Blu-ray has enough extras that overall value leans to a purchase.

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Filed under: Video Review, The Devil's Double