Who's In It: Dominic Cooper, Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Mem Ferda, Dar Salim, Philip Quast, Mimoun Oaissa
The Basics: Uday Hussein, Sadaam's terrifyingly sadistic son, is much less scary to deal with as a concept than an actual person. In this adaptation of a biographical novel, Latif Yahia (Cooper) is plucked from the streets and forced into being Uday's (also Cooper) fiday (which translates into both body double and bullet catcher). Although he comes from a military background, he is not prepared for the overwhelming evil that radiates from Uday, much less having to emulate it himself.
What's The Deal: This almost completely true story is so juicy and unbelievable, it really caught me by surprise. To describe Dominic Cooper's performance as spectacular is an understatement--he basically brings three characters to life, differentiating each of them perfectly. His Uday is unhinged even in his quieter moments, and contrasts with the observant, thoughtful Latif. Then, when Latif becomes Uday, he brings to life yet a third character. It could be confusing, but Cooper deftly navigates the material, leaving me wanting to hear every juicy tidbit about the filming process. This is taking green screen acting to an entirely new level, because the scenes aren't just a quick Star Wars-esque flat conversation between a human and someone reading lines for an animated character. There is genuine emotion and interaction in every scene that made it seem impossible there weren't two different people in the room.
Bonjour Again: Also upping the ante in this film is Ludivigne Sagnier, who first captivated me in Swimming Pool, and more recently the Mesrine films. She moves like oil suspended in water, and her cool gaze never fails to mesmerize. Yes, she is my girl crush. And lucky for me, she's a fantastic performer whose quietness in scenes is as sharp as barb wire. She adds an enormous amount of intrigue and humanity to this movie, giving substance to what could be a flat femme fatale by someone less skilled.
Uday and Idi: This movie reminds me of The Last King of Scotland, in respect to the strength of the performances as well as its tone of desperation. Portraits of monsters like these men are the scariest horror movies. Michael Myers, step aside--your real-life counterpart is much more upsetting. Plus, any movie that turns morality on its ear and gets the audience to root for someone's death is fantastic in retrospect. The beast lives within all of us.