Dominic Cooper excels himself here in a film where he plays two contrasting characters side by side so convincingly that it is eerie. The film follows the true story of ordinary solider, Latif Yahia, who is called back from the front to become Uday Hussein’s body double.
It turns out to be an offer he cannot refuse – and I use this Godfather reference intentionally, since much of this film has the feel of a Scorsese gangster film. Uday’s dangerous, coke-filled rages bring to mind Joe Pesci’s lunatics to mind while the conspicuous wealth, beautiful women and inability to escape it all scream Goodfellas and Casino. The sets glitter and glow with gold and riches as Uday drags Latif to debauched nightclubs and parties.
Cooper plays Latif as a steely, upright man, clearly disgusted by his new master and desperate to escape. This plays well with Cooper’s Uday, the dangerously unhinged son of Saddam Hussein who waltzes through his world like a drunk, randy teenager, taking what he wants and destroying whatever stands against him. His childish menace seems all the more ridiculous against Latif the straightman who finally endeavours to escape, hand in hand with one of Uday’s other toys, the inescapably beautiful Sarrab (Sagnier).
After their outrageous escape, however, the film loses some of its snap and seems more interested in having Latif pout and stride his way around the world with Sarrab, hounded by Uday’s assassins. This is a shame because the film up to this point had been fantastic, unafraid to reveal the full horror of Uday’s sadism and capturing the genuine terror felt by ordinary Iraqis in his presence. There is also real tension whenever Saddam (Quast) or his double are in the room, the dictator fulfilling the peculiar role of controlling influence on his wayward son.
The film builds to an arty ending, with a gunfight in a market square, replete with slow motion approaches and explosions, where it regains some kudos but the overall feeling of this film is that it missed an opportunity to stay the distance of its impeccable early quality and do this incredible true story full justice.