Latif Yahia, an Iraqi emigree, wrote a novelization of his experience being forcibly employed as a "body double" for Uday Hussein, the terrifyingly psychotic playboy son of Saddam Hussein. Yahia described his book, on which the new movie is based, as a novel, so it is hard to know how much of it is "authentic" and what is fiction, but it provides the basis for an absolutely gripping story that rings true. In the movie, the dazzling British actor Dominic Cooper plays both men. His make-up, grooming and mannerisms are handled very well to suggest he is portraying two men who bear a striking physical resemblance to each other but are, in fact, diametrically opposed personalities.
Latif is a patriotic, modest, honest, at heart gentle warrior, conscripted out of his low-ranking Army post to serve as the "body double" of Uday, who desires somebody to serve the same role that his father Saddam Hussein's body double serves – to make the public appearances Uday does not or cannot make, and to brave the situations where assassination attempts are possible. (During the course of the movie, Latif survives some assassination attempts on Uday.) Uday, as portrayed here, is a dangerous, psychotic, blustering opportunist, who thinks nothing of quickly murdering somebody who displeases him, and gets his perverted pleasures from cruising about Baghdad in his sports car, abducting teenage girls off the street, taking them back to his palace, where he forces them to have sex with him before murdering them, dispatching his handlers to dispose of their blanket-wrapped bodies on the outskirts of the city.
Is this true? How much of it is the work of Latif's imagination, and how much a depiction of reality? In any event, a person of Latif's ethical probity and aesthetic taste can't put up with this for too long without trying to escape, and eventually he succeeds, but it is a near thing, because Uday knows that with Latif's knowledge about Uday's life, his very existence is a walking threat to Uday.
I can't say enough about Dominic Cooper's work in this film. He is absolutely riveting, fulfilling the extraordinary promise of his youthful acting in "The History Boys." Michael Thomas has fashioned an excellent screenplay from Latif Yahia's novel, and Lee Tamahori directs with passion and vivid pacing. I recommend this highly, unless you are squeamish about seeing graphically depicted sadistic violence. Some people are sure to have recurring nightmares after seeing this film.