You know someone is bad when news of their death, no matter how early or how gory, causes you to, if not actually rejoice (we’re too civilized for that) at least breathe lighter as if some evil force had finally been vanquished. Does this sound too melodramatic? Then it applies perfectly to Uday Hussein, son of infamous Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein who was killed along with his brother Qusay at the beginning of the U.S.-led invasion, to most people’s relief.
Like his father, Uday was a sadistic, power-drunk brute. But where his father, through sheer brutality and shrewdness, governed a country and kept it together by crushing all but the most obedient of his subjects, Uday was all about his own sick no-holds-barred concept of fun. A raving mad lunatic, always high on a combination of drugs and alcohol, toting an automatic rifle which he discharged on the least provocation on friends, lovers or fellow partiers, he spent with abandon on a lavish lifestyle and loved nothing so much as a good orgy. Or else rape or disembowel or torture for the sheer pleasure of it.
You get the picture—Uday was not a nice person. Following demonstrated monster best-practice, he had doubles that could be thrown in harm’s way should anyone want to rid the world of him. One of these doubles, Latif Yahia, went on to write the memoirs on which Lee Tamahori’s film The Devil’s Double is based. The film gives a very graphic depiction of the absolute nastiness of Uday Hussein (whom Yahia found “worse than a psychopath,” leaving one to wonder what that would be). Though unnecessarily gory and not subtle at character development, The Devil’s Double is as intense as any thriller.
The tour de force is Dominic Cooper’s. With slight prosthetic changes, the actor plays Uday and Latif and Latif being Uday so thoroughly that we always know which character we’re seeing. Critics have not been kind to this film that has been presented at a number of festivals but it probably deserves to be seen. It reminds us that although we tend to see all tyrants and dictators and oppressors the same way in a Walhalla of pure evil, scales vary. As The Devil’s Double shows, Uday, worthy elder son of Saddam, sits at the very top. But he’s not alone.