The film follows the story Latif Yahia who was an Iraqi soldier who was asked by Uday Hussein, son of the country's leader Saddam Hussein, to be his body double. Latif was often teased for looking just like Uday back when the two were in school together, something that Uday remembered and has now decided to exploit so he can have double, just like his father had many, that might get assassinated instead of him. The film is based on the book written by the actual Yahia. Although the film takes dramatic license, even the accuracy of Yahia's book was questioned, which seems inevitable. That being said, one shouldn't be concerned with whether this is fact of fiction, or at least I'm not. I watch movies for a story whether it be true or not.
The film is full of horrific violence, which is something that director Lee Tamahori has demonstrated a great speciality in. With the exception of his last three films, his others don't exactly contain the most family-friendly imagery. It says a lot about myself and the depictions of violence in our popular culture that I really don't need to understand the motive behind any of it. I look at Uday and after one character says "he must be psychotic" and then Uday does something psychotic... I just take that at face value.
The script unfortunately gets too repetitive in the actions of Uday and Latif that the violence moves from being shocking to expected. The script also fails to ever shed light on any of the other interesting characters. I still don't completely understand where Sarrab (Ludivine Sagnier) is coming from and it was odd to see Saddam (Philip Quast) depicted as a sane man while still being a despot.
The best thing this movie has got going for it, is the performance of its star, Dominic Cooper. Cooper plays both Uday and Latif, so since he is acting oppositite of himself through special effects, I have to highly applaud his work at how seamless he made it seem and even how well rounded and different he made these characters appear. Uday is shown as being so sadistic and a complete sociopath. Think De Palma's Scarface character, Tony Montana, with many more screws loose in his head. Yahia is simply the complete opposite, but as the title suggests, he is struggling to hold on to his own identity when he is being asked to vanquish himself so both his family (that Uday is threatening) and Uday can live. As Yahia, Cooper demonstrates a man attempting to survive the destruction that Cooper demonstrates as Uday.
Cooper proves that he is more than just a great supporting actor (The Escapist, An Education, Captain America, My Week with Marilyn to name a few that will probably be joined by a great many more) in that he can carry a film with his strengths. Despite feeling like just about everything in this movie's story was being done in excess (just to beat the point into our heads that Uday was perverted man), I still kept watching. So that has to count for something.