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“The Devil’s Double” review: Diabolical Fun and The Problem with Iraq Movies

"The Devil's Double" review: Diabolical Fun and The Problem with Iraq Movies

“The Devil’s Double,” the new movie which imagines Uday Hussein as a later day Arab Scarface, is one strange film. Ever since I saw it at Sundance this past year, it lingers in my mind like a chain-restaurant cocktail — too much sugar and alcohol and yet still packs a punch.

Writing a review for “Screen Daily” at the time of its premiere, I called it “a crazy lurid vision of Iraq in its oil-rich heyday” and “preposterous,” but actor Dominic Cooper delivers a knockout performance as Uday and his body double, a man named Latif.

Set in the past, “The Devil’s Double” is mostly Hollywood-ized fantasy, with a sexual climax that takes place while bombs are falling on Baghdad(!).

One of the problems with the film’s ludicrous, lurid pleasures, however, is they mask the realities of the Iraq maelstrom and its catastrophic aftermath.

It’s just one more vision of the country that doesn’t show us actually what’s going on. And what’s been happening in the country, from Hussein’s reign to the U.S.’s disastrous occupation, is so horrible that in some ways it’s irresponsible to ignore those facts. (Although the movie does include an out-of-place disturbing montage of real torture videos that briefly exposes the hell of Iraq, shattering the film’s glossy illusionism.)

Just today, in fact, on the eve of “The Devil’s Double” theatrical release, The Washington Post reports that a hearing about the long-term human and financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will take place before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. (Health-care costs are estimated between $40 billion and $55 billion over the next 10 years.)

And yesterday, the trial facing the security firm once known as Blackwater began in Virginia. The military contractors are being charged with submitting phony reimbursements and other bogus expenses. Allegations against Blackwater, of course, have been much worse, including the possible murdering of Iraqi civilians.

I don’t expect “The Devil’s Double” to include any of this information, of course. It’s practically a comic book movie, after all. But you have to wonder when they’ll be a movie this wild that shows U.S. military contractors running around Iraq, bilking the government and killing people.

As of Tuesday, at least 4,473 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq War since it began in March 2003.

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