Iraqi army lieutenant Latif Lahia (Dominic Cooper) had a stroke of bad luck which he could do nothing about: he happened to closely resemble the son of the leader of the country. This meant, as he had attended school with the man, he was summoned to the palace one day and told to wait in an office. He was waiting for Uday Hussein (Cooper again), son of Saddam Hussein (Philip Quast), and when he showed up he had some news for Latif, which was he was to be his new brother. What this amounted to was the soldier was now entrusted to be Uday's double...
Such a position was deemed necessary since so many people wanted the ruling family dead, so Saddam had one and his son decided he needed one as well, picking Latif since he was the one who sprang to mind from their schooldays. As you can surmise from the title, Uday was not the sanest of men, as nobody had the guts to say no to him apart from his father, so basically he got away with all sorts of disgusting behaviour when standing up to him would mean certain death, or at least torture, for whoever plucked up the courage to do so. This put Latif in a very difficult position, as the lives of his family were placed in danger.
Did I mention this was a true story? The real life Latif was very pleased with this version of his time in Iraq, probably because not only did it portray him as the noble, handsome hero, but he also got to exact revenge on the man who caused him so much grief down the years. How accurate this was turned out to be more questionable, with director Lee Tamahori claiming he was filming this as a gangster movie, and it was evident the temptation to go over the top was never far away. To be fair, Uday was an outrageous character, raping his way through any unwilling females, and according to this occasional males too, who came his way, then topping that off with violent power games.
All of this rested on the performances of Cooper, and it was to his credit that you were always sure of who you were watching thanks to his acting being so assured for each persona. Stoic Latif was straight ahead, decent and forced into a corner by circumstances beyond his control, whereas with Uday the star let his hair down and played him as a goofy but deadly maniac, not quite chewing the scenery but a little too close to pantomime. Again, the actual person was certifiably crazy, so Cooper had the weight of history behind him as Uday became so enamoured of having a lookalike to push around that he turns obsessive, ordering every aspect of his life and knowing there's nothing he can do about it.
For the female lead, Ludivine Sagnier took the role of Sarrab, the sexual partner of Uday who prefers his double and places them both in peril when she does something about it. Alas, this was a cardboard role, not much different from the typical sheik-styled dramas of yesteryear which always seemed to feature one woman in the harem who would turn against her boss and team up with the hero, though there was a late on twist which attempted to offer her more depth, a case of too little too late. Elsewhere as Uday's excesses grow ever more lurid, it looked as if all concerned would have been happier making some kind of Middle Eastern horror movie, as the exploitative nature of what we saw teetered on the edge of rendering the misdeeds a matter of titillation for the thrillseekers in the audience. So, as history it was tracing a fine line between telling it as it was and dubious overkill, leaving Cooper as the main reason to watch thanks to his performances and some clever camera trickery. Music by Christian Henson.