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23 January 2011

Sundance ’11: Saddam’s Crazy Kid, and Crazy Love


If you want to win an Oscar, play a crazy ol’ depot. Forest Whitaker did it with “The Last King of Scotland.” Christoph Waltz did it with “Inglourious Basterds.”

Now Dominic Cooper, the up and coming young British actor, knocked the Sundance crowd out last night playing Uday Hussein, the now dead (thank god) son of Saddam in “The Devil’s Double.”

The Lee Tamahori film is like “Scarface” in the desert. Cooper plays not only Uday, but Latif Yahia, the man who was forced to be Uday’s double during the wild days of the Saddam reign of terror leading up to the Gulf War.

This is no “Patty Duke” show. Cooper is mesmerizing in both roles, often on screen together. Latif–at least in this film–is thoughtful, has a conscious, even realizes early on that Uday is, as he says, “a psychotic.”

Uday is a delicious character. He rapes, pillages, and tortures. He is amoral sort of beyond the pale. Cooper never turns him into a cartoon, although by the time we see Uday and his mother watching TV in bed together, we’ve almost jumped the shark. Luckily, the Americans arrive in 1991. Uday is maimed–great scene –and eventually dies in 2003 when Saddam is finally deposed.

Whoever gets “Devil’s Double” will have an Oscar nominee in Cooper. And a wild ride. Let the bidding begin!

While distributors fight over “Devil’s Double,” one of them has nabbed Drake Doremus’s “Like Crazy.” A few wanted this sort of British “Blue Valentine”–what seems to be an auobiographical account of the American director’s ill fated romance and marriage to a beautiful youg Brit. Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones are the stars; I found the film ultimately a little tedious. It’s all improvised, too. So surprise! Paramount paid $4 million for worldwide rights. That’s like, crazy. You do learn a lot about immigration laws, however, concerning well-heeled Brits and Americans. Not the usual INS story.