Jul 29 2011

“A Good Man Forced To Become The Man He Despises” in ‘Devil’s Double’

Rethink Reviews | Published 29 Jul 2011, 10:48 am | Comments Off on “A Good Man Forced To Become The Man He Despises” in ‘Devil’s Double’ -

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Rethink ReviewsTaking a deeper look at current and past films and how they relate to the world today.

Jonathan Kim is an independent film critic who writes and produces film reviews for Uprising and other outlets. He is a former co-producer at Brave New Films.

Read his reviews online at ReThinkReviews.net. Watch his videos at www.youtube.com/user/jsjkim, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ReThinkReviews. ReThink Reviews’ theme song is by Restavrant.

Devil’s Double

Imagine if the cruelest, most psychotic gangster on earth chose YOU to be his body double and impersonator to fill in at public appearances and be a target for would-be assassins. Now imagine he also wanted to be your best friend, and that he’d kill your family if you refused. Now imagine this deadly mental case’s father was the dictator of an oil-rich middle eastern country, and you have ‘The Devil’s Double’, an extraordinary new film based on the true story of Latif Yahia, an Iraqi soldier who was chosen in the late 80s to be the double of Uday Hussein, the sadistic eldest son of Saddam Hussein. ‘The Devil’s Double’ is probably the best film I’ve seen all year, and that is largely due to the truly astonishing performance by Dominic Cooper, who plays both Uday and Latif in what has got to be one of the most mesmerizing performances in movie history. No, I am not exaggerating.

Films like ‘The Social Network’ have shown us that advances in digital filmmaking have made it possible to convincingly have one actor play two characters onscreen. But Dominic Cooper’s riveting performance takes this to a new level as he not only plays a homicidal nutbag and the man he’s essentially taken hostage, but also the hostage trying to impersonate the homicidal nutbag.

Cooper’s performances as Latif and Uday are so radically different, and the technology so seamless, that you will quickly and easily accept that these are two completely different people. And if you do find yourself pondering the fact that Uday and Latif are played by the same actor, you’ll probably be thinking: “Man, those effects are amazing!” and/or “I cannot believe how incredible this Dominick Cooper guy is. Where did he come from?”

Well, he came from England, where the handsome, ripped 33-year-old has quickly been distinguishing himself as one of the most promising talents of a generation, with standout roles in British theater and TV, and recently in successful films like ‘An Education’, ‘Mamma Mia!’, and ‘Captain America’. Trust me, you’re going to be hearing a lot more from this guy.

The bright, widescreen digital cinematography gives the opulent settings the slick feel of a modern-day rap or gangster video juiced with over-the-top 80s extravagance. When violence comes in ‘The Devil’s Double’, it is always shocking, and often heartbreaking. Uday, as a character, is one of the most terrifying, repugnant movie villains of all time, a murderous, self-obsessed, unrepentant rapist and torturer who is completely untouchable. In the eyes of his victims we not only see their pain, but the pain Uday’s existence causes the people of Iraq. Latif is utterly sympathetic as a good man forced to become the man he despises, just hoping to survive with his soul intact. Perhaps my only quarrel with ‘The Devil’s Double’ is French actress Ludivine Sagnier, who plays Uday’s favorite girl who quickly falls for Latif. While that might’ve happened in real life, it’s a bit cliché, and while Sagnier is good at playing super sexy and is apparently a good actress, she does slow things down later in the film.

But that takes little away from this remarkable movie that could be classified as a gangster/spy/serial killer/kidnapping/love triangle/political/historical/mafia/Hitchcockian/action thriller. Again, I’m not exaggerating, Dominick Cooper gives what is quite possibly the greatest performance I’ve ever seen, making ‘The Devil’s Double’ feel not only like a quantum leap for digital filmmaking and genre, but of acting, with Cooper achieving something that will be studied and admired for generations to come.

‘The Devil’s Double’ is rated R and opens today in New York and Los Angeles.

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