Like many people my age, I remember watching the first Gulf War on television. I was in middle school in Utah at the time and I can recall sitting at the dinner table eating and watching the green glow from the TV interspersed with white flashes. I don’t remember much about the war other than it seemed to be a quick one and that it was playing in our house nonstop it seemed. Saddam Hussein I had heard of because of the news, but I knew nothing about his eldest son, Uday, until the buildup of the second Gulf War. Not only was Saddam sadistic, but his sons more so. Years later, who would have thought there would be a movie made about Uday and the evil that he unleashed.
Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper) has just been pulled from the front line of the Iran – Iraq war and brought to the mansion of Saddam Hussein’s eldest son, Uday (also played by Dominic Cooper.) Uday has chosen Latif to become his body double and is shocked that Latif is not happy about it. Latif warms to the idea after Uday has him tortured and Latif then begins his transformation into Uday. This includes studying his life, his voice and mannerisms and a little plastic surgery. He spends the next few years witnessing how psychotic, sexually perverse and murderous Uday is. Latif is used as a propaganda tool during times of war, doing the tasks Uday finds boring and trying to outrun attempted assassinations. Latif hates every moment of it and continually looks for a way out.
Dominic Cooper owns this movie; he is fantastic as both the full on nuts Uday and the reserved and depressed Latif. I’m thinking because of this film we might be seeing more of him–or at least we should in my estimation. When he is engrossed in either character the viewer is glued to the screen; he plays them both flawlessly. The rest of the cast seems up to the task of keeping up with him with the exception of the love interest; while she was good, she didn’t seem to have any depth to her character. The direction of the film and its cinematography are well put together and look great on Blu-Ray.
The story is good and supposedly based on a true story; although, that has been in question with recent journalists. Regardless, it can be an uncomfortable movie to watch when scenes of Uday’s very real life murderous and grotesquely lustful attitude are shown. This is a movie about what happens when a man’s restraints are no longer there; he is given over fully to his sinful desires. It is surprising this film has taken so long to come to the screen seeing as how there have been books written on it since the mid-nineties. I’m guessing it didn’t fit the narrative of the left: that Saddam’s regime wasn’t really a problem and Bush was the murderous thug. To be able to see the evil glee these people took in the horrendous acts they perpetrated on their neighbors and their own people on film is shocking; no matter how restrained the filmmakers were in dealing with Uday’s deeds. The credits role without showing the justice that came to Uday and the Hussein family years later and even though he had become crippled, his evil was still very present and many innocents suffered from it.
3 stars out of 4