REVIEW: The Devil’s Double

13 08 2011

Major props have to go to Dominic Cooper in “The Devil’s Double” for taking the performance to 11.  In dual roles as Uday Hussein, the psychotically incorrigible son of Saddam, and his level-headed body double Latif Yahia, Cooper proves himself to be significantly more than just a pretty face for those who know him as little more than the cocky sidekick in “An Education” and the guy who can barely muster the effort to put on a shirt but is still lucky enough to land Amanda Seyfried in “Mamma Mia.”  He plays Uday with a balls-to-the-wall lack of restraint, a risky move that can be communicated as a sort of foolish ridiculousness to the audience in the hands of an unskilled actor.

But against all odds (and my own personal expectations), it doesn’t come off that way at all.  Cooper’s performance as Uday as a man of excess simply emulates the excess surrounding him in the form of gilded palaces, Rolex-laden closets, and harem garden pools.  Anywhere else, this demented sexually devious, trigger-happy scion would be wildly out of place.  Yet against this backdrop, Cooper soars and scares with his rabid intensity, neither chewing scenery or fading idly into it.

As Latif, the mild-mannered lookalike forced into servitude for Uday, Cooper offers a simple performance that doesn’t dazzle but feels more spectacular thanks to its juxtaposition in the same movie with the crazed madman.  It’s a showcase of range for Cooper; concerns that we won’t be able to distinguish the two practically indistinguishable characters from each other evaporates almost instantly as Cooper establishes a firm foundation for both characters and then layers a colossus on top of it.

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