THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE – Christian Henson


Original Review by Alan Rogers (First uploaded at maintitles.net)

The Devil’s Double follows an Iraqi army officer (Latif Yahia, played by Dominic Cooper) who is ordered to become the “fiday” or body double to Saddam Hussein’s son, Uday. The film centres on Latif’s struggle to take on the persona of “The Black Prince” Uday Hussein, a sadistic and psychotic party-boy with a penchant for sex and brutality. Director Lee Tamahori has kept away from the politics of late 80’s Baghdad in the run-up to the Gulf War, focusing instead on the sex and violence and coming up with a gangster movie. And this emphasis is reflected in Christian Henson’s score which – agreed between composer and director – would not focus too much on music bedded in a particular geographic location. Henson does add some subtle hints at the Middle Eastern locale with some ethnic-styled music but for the most part the music is a mish-mash of electronics, suspenseful strings and strong rhythms.

First things first: this release from Lakeshore Records is about 45 minutes too long. Running in at over 75 minutes in length, the music doesn’t really merit such a long release: a more modest 30 minutes of the choice music that highlights the key ideas of the score would have been fine and would have left a better impression. As it is, I was glad to get to the end. The score starts off promisingly with the introduction of a delicate piano line in “The Veteran”, reflecting Latif before his transformation. As the cue progresses, layer is added upon layer: suspenseful strings swell and electronic washes appear before a guitar motif is added and then followed by Middle Eastern influences. It’s a 5-minute track that shows a level of care in building up a musical world. But what then follows is a whole series of cues where various ideas and motifs are added and removed within the space of the same cue. For example, tracks such as “Metamorphosis”, “Saddam” and “A Boot Full of Body” feature interesting rhythmic ideas but they disappear as quickly as they appeared and are usually replaced with something less interesting. Henson’s most memorable orchestral touch of the score is his use of low strings to add an ominous and suspenseful feel – best heard in “Fiday” and “Punishment” – but, again, their presence is only fleeting and are replaced with electronic wailings (“Punishment”).

An element that can be best described as “electronic noise” features throughout the score. Heard in tracks such as “Torture Video”, these are best left off the CD as they add nothing to the musical flow of the CD. And “Party At Uday’s” features similar electronics for the first 2 minutes or so and is followed by suspenseful low strings and off-kilter tinklings before electronic wailings and raspings strangle things and these are then replaced by more rhythmic noise. Techno-styled music such as that found in “Liberation” are thrown into the mix also and its appearance is unexpected – and not necessarily wanted, again affecting the flow of the score as a listening experience. There appears to be a high level of electronics used in the score, whether it is to generate an unsettling soundscape or to manipulate “live” instruments. It obviously serves a purpose in the film but away from the images a lot of it is rather unpleasant to listen to.

As mentioned already, The Devil’s Double runs to 75 minutes which is, for me, way too long. Something half the length would be getting somewhere nearer the mark to get a feel for what this score has to offer, to be able to showcase the various aspects of the music. And it does have something to offer and what does stand out is Henson’s use of rhythm – whether it be drums or the various ethnic influenced percussion elements. But it just gets swallowed up and lost in amongst everything else.

Rating: *½

  1. The Veteran (5:04)
  2. Fiday (2:09)
  3. Uday’s Compound (1:57)
  4. Metamorphosis (3:25)
  5. Torture Video (1:35)
  6. Punishment (2:53)
  7. Saddam (2:57)
  8. Middle East Conference (1:55)
  9. Liberation (1:12)
  10. Sarrab Looks On (1:00)
  11. Stalking Schoolgirls (2:04)
  12. Party At Uday’s (5:33)
  13. A Boot Full of Body (2:52)
  14. Allied Invasion (2:26)
  15. Sarrab Enters (2:47)
  16. Basra (4:20)
  17. The Hospital (2:02)
  18. Kuwait Liberated (0:29)
  19. The Bride (4:24)
  20. Suicide Attempt (5:57)
  21. Gunfight (1:24)
  22. The Bridge (1:29)
  23. Flight (2:57)
  24. Uday Calls (1:28)
  25. Who Is Sarrab (1:07)
  26. Malta Attack (0:29)
  27. Farewells (3:56)
  28. The Market (4:57)

Running Time: 75:03

Lakeshore Records (2011)

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