Reviewed byevanston_dadVote: 9/10/10
With "The Last King of Scotland," Kevin MacDonald has created abracing, exciting and totally satisfying thriller.
Forest Whitaker gives a titanic performance as Idi Amin, Ugandandictator who rose to power in the 1970s. James McAvoy plays NicholasGarrigan, a Scottish physician who travels to Uganda for the adventureand wins Amin's affections, becoming his personal doctor. Garriganenters into a moral crisis as he begins to realize the kind of man Aminis, and begins to fear for his own life as events spiral more and moreout of his control.
Whitaker seizes the chance to play this larger than life character andruns with it -- I've never seen Whitaker give so convincing andtransforming a performance. However, as good as he is, McAvoy impressedme more. His performance as Garrigan is not as showy, but it's muchmore textured and subtle, and his character has the bigger arc fromstart to finish. Gillian Anderson also does terrific work in a smallrole as a fellow doctor, who understands things about Amin and theAfrican culture that Garrigan does not.
Unlike other recent thrillers set in African nations ("The ConstantGardener," "Hotel Rwanda"), "The Last King of Scotland" is not greatlyconcerned with the geo-political implications of Amin's reign. Theatrocities he committed against Ugandans are given only the barest ofmentions, and the film sticks almost exclusively to Garrigan and thedanger he himself faces. Some may think the film is irresponsible forthis reason -- that the plight of one man pales in comparison to theplight of thousands, and I can see where a criticism like that isjustified. But the movie packs a powerful wallop regardless, andcomplaints like this seem like quibbles when up against such anentertaining movie.
Reviewed byjim pykeVote: 9/10/10
How can an actor terrify you without saying a word, without even hardlymoving his face or body? I'm not sure how he does it, but Mr. Whitakerdoes it over and over again in this movie. And then he turns around thenext minute and becomes giant hug-able teddy bear superhero. Forget allthe others, this is the best horror film of the year. This movie, andhis performance in particular, grab hold of you and never let go.Whitaker should win an Oscar for best actor, I've never seen a betterperformance in my life. Also notable is the Nicholas Garrigan characterwho is written and acted very skilfully to draw the (non-African)spectator into the world of Uganda and Amin. The way his characterwillingly "falls into" Amin's web of charisma somehow goes a long waytoward mitigating the racist potential of a story about a very troubled(African black) man. The way the interplay of the two lead character'scultural backgrounds plays out on screen moves the story beyond justtheir personalities and into the realm of incisive socio-politicalanalysis and critique. This movie is quite incredible, really.
Reviewed byEd UyeshimaVote: 8/10/10
Forest Whitaker's ferociously charismatic turn as Idi Amin so dominatesthis intense historical fiction that it is honestly difficult to payattention to anything else in this 2006 political thriller. Even thoughhe is definitively the emotional locus, he is intriguingly not theprotagonist of the story. That role belongs to young James McAvoy, whoplays Nicholas Garrigan, a precocious Scottish doctor who ventures toUganda to satisfy his need for adventure after graduating medicalschool. By happenstance, Garrigan is called upon to help Amin with aminor sprain after his private car plows into a cow. Impressed by theyoung man's lack of hesitancy to take action, Amin appoints Garrigan tobe his personal physician, a post that seduces the impressed doctorinto the Ugandan dictator's political inner circle and extravagantlifestyle.
Scottish director Kevin MacDonald brings his extensive documentaryfilm-making skills to the fore here, as he creates a mostrealistic-feeling atmosphere in capturing the oppressive Uganda of the1970's. Helping considerably with this image are the vibrant colorcontrasts in Anthony Dod Mantle's cinematography and the propulsiveaction induced by Justine Wright's sharp editing. Screenwriters PeterMorgan (who also wrote "The Queen") and Jeremy Brock have developed asharply delineated character study of Amin, who evolves from a magneticleader giving hope to his people to a scarifying tyrant conductingmurders on an imaginable scale (at least until the genocides in Rwandaand Darfur). It is impossible to over-praise Whitaker's toweringperformance here. He conveys the dictator's playfulness as well as hisunmitigated rage moving from simmering to full boil with a power thatis at once bravura and subtle. His relationship with the fictionalizedGarrigan turns out to be the plot's essential pivot point, although thecontrast between the two can be almost too extreme at times.
While McAvoy admirably captures the boyish naiveté of Garrigan, thecharacter is drawn out in rather broad strokes that make hisself-delusion all the more contrived as the story progresses. Tointensify the political upheaval portrayed, the plot takes amelodramatic turn into an adulterous affair and even folds in theinfamous 1976 Entebbe hijacking incident to illustrate Garrigan'sincreasingly precarious situation. It's all exciting and even downrightbrutalizing toward the end, but it also starts to feel a bit tooHollywood in execution. Kerry Washington shows genuine versatility asAmin's cloistered third wife Kay, while Simon McBurney oozes cynicalsuspicion with ease as a British operative. A convincinglyBrit-accented Gillian Anderson makes her few scenes count as a wearyclinic worker who proves to have better instincts than Garrigan. Butsee the movie for Whitaker's magnificent work. He is that good.
In the early 1970s, Nicholas Garrigan, a young semi-idealistic Scottish doctor, comes to Uganda to assist in a rural hospital. Once there, he soon meets up with the new President, Idi Amin, who promises a golden age for the African nation. Garrigan hits it off immediately with the rabid Scotland fan, who soon offers him a senior position in the national health department and becomes one of Amin's closest advisers. However as the years pass, Garrigan cannot help but notice Amin's increasingly erratic behavior that grows beyond a legitimate fear of assassination into a murderous insanity that is driving Uganda into bloody ruin. Realizing his dire situation with the lunatic leader unwilling to let him go home, Garrigan must make some crucial decisions that could mean his death if the despot finds out.