A fast paced action thriller, loosely based on the autobiographical experiences of Latif Yahia, a captain in the Iraqi army who was forced into service as the look alike, body double of Saddam Hussein’s evil, sadistic eldest son Uday Hussein.
Everything about this movie is captivating; the movie is gorgeously photographed and set in exotic locations with Malta standing in for 1980s Baghdad, the style of the film is sort of a middle east version of Scarface (1983), the story of two headstrong and determined people struggling for control over each other, but what makes this movie even more captivating is the brilliant and central performance by actor Dominic Cooper, recently from Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and An Education (2009) who plays the part of both Uday and his double with such natural nuance, that never during the film do you get the sense that it’s the same actor. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dominic is nominated for an Oscar for this role. This is the first stand out performance I have seen this year that was truly impressive.
The story is similar to that of Gladiator (2001) in that it’s about an army captain who must deal with the jealous eldest son of the head of state, who is appalled by and doesn’t trust his own son’s behavior. Latif’s story is very compelling because he is a very decent, loyal and humble person who had plans to help his family and go into business with his father when he was forced, under threat of his family’s death, to become the brother of this psychotic maniac who had the power and money to indulge his every depraved and perverted craving with anyone he wanted, and did just that. Latif was a witness to unspeakable horrors while in the service of the Hussein clan’s inner circle, including brutal rapes and murders of innocent young girls, which affected him so much psychologically that he attempted to kill himself several times during his ordeal.
The movie is done in a gangster action suspense thriller style and attempts to touch on many of these true incidents that Latif witnessed. Uday was feared and hated by Iraqis even more than Saddam himself and there were many assassination attempts made on his life which Latif, as the body double, was on the receiving end of. In fact the term used for his job, ‘fiday’ means bullet catcher. According to Latif the violence in the film was toned down and we are not seeing even half of what actually happened.
This movie is not for the squeamish but it’s well worth seeing for many reasons and it’s a story worth telling because it’s the first time we are seeing a major movie about the Iraqi ruling clan and by extension about the practices of many Arab ruler and their families. With many Arab dictators now under attack by their own people in violent revolutions, it makes this movie even more urgent and topical. The story is so powerful, has such a distinctive look, and is set in such a fascinating place and time, plus it has one of the best performances by an actor, that you will not be able to take your eyes off of it.
Latif has written several books about his experiences and is an outspoken critic of American policy in the Middle East which he blames for the deteriorating political stability in the Arab states. For additional information about Latif’s experiences see his blog by clicking the link below.
Also watch BattleGround: 21 Days on the Empire’s Edge (2004) an excellent and moving documentary by Stephen Marshall from the Iraqi people's and some American soldier’s point of view, including an Iraqi rebel soldier who was tortured and shot after the uprising by Saddam Hussein’s regime but escaped with the help of American soldiers. Now after 13 years in exile he is returning for the first time to see if his family is still alive.
Iraq in Fragments (2007) by James Longley is a documentary that is completely from the POV of the Iraqi people. Filmed in four different parts of the country, it has some of the most beautiful and unforgettable images of Iraq and Baghdad ever filmed.