Written by Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock
Directed by Kevin Macdonald
Running Time: 2:34
for some strong violence and gruesome images,
sexual content and language.
The Last King of Scotland is brilliant and disturbing film which features an Oscar worthy performance from Forest Whitaker.
The Last King of Scotland is a fictional story set in the real world of Uganda in the 1970s when the brutal dictator Idi Amin was in power. Nicholas Garrigan is a newly licensed physician from Scotland who decides he doesn't want to live under his father's thumb. So he randomly decides to go to Uganda to practice real medicine. While there, a power struggle ensues and military general Idi Amin takes over control of the country. Initially, the people of Uganda are happy and feel he will do everything to make their lives better. After a chance encounter, Nicholas is asked to be Amin's personal physician. Soon Nicholas is drawn into the dark world of Amin and becomes not only his physician, but also a confidant. Too far inside to see what is really happening, Nicholas believes Amin is good for the country, but soon he realizes the horrors the rest of the world has been talking about. Soon, Nicholas is torn between his duties as a physician to the people of the country, and a fear for his own life.
First and foremost, without a doubt Forest Whitaker should be in line for an Oscar nomination, and at this point early in the season, a clear front runner. His portrayal of Idi Amin is absolutely bone chilling. After seeing the movie I decided to look for some videos on the real Amin to see what he was really like. I found this 1974 documentary called General Idi Amin Dada which was directed by Barbet Schroeder. Although it'll cost me a few bucks, I should also let you know the documentary is available (as of today) for free on Google Video. Whitaker's performance is perfectly dead on. Amin was a jolly, happy looking person who at one time may have truly believed he was what was best for the country. You can see why people would take to him. He can be charming and at the same time, very powerful. He was an imposing physical figure so people would feel he was their protector. But as time went on, the power got to him and turned him into a monster. Within the film, you can see the devil underneath his skin throughout, and as the film goes on, the devil starts to take over. Whitaker delivers a performance unlike any other you will see this year. His is completely captivating and does such a great job you can understand why Nicholas was under Amin's spell until it was too late. The real Amin was much the same way. He allowed the documentary to be filmed (with him having the final say on what went in and what didn't) because he was also an ego maniac, feeling that he was so above everyone else, people should love him no matter what. Whitaker captured that spirit and essence and after a while, I forgot I was watching a fictional film and felt like I was watching the real man in front of me.
James McAvoy also delivered a terrific performance as Nicholas. Nicholas only wanted to become a doctor and help people. He didn't want to be trapped in his father's practice so he hopped to a country that could use him. But you could also see that he wanted to have fun, so whether it was having sex with a woman he just met on a bus, or becoming the personal physician to the country's new President, Nicholas was going to jump aboard. Working with Amin, he felt he could do the most of the country, but also live a life of relative luxury. He was the inside man, the one who was closest to Amin. But from the inside, it's hard to see what's really going on around you. Nicholas wanted to believe in Amin so much he was willing to put the stories aside, until everything finally caught up to him. Then you could see the true terror in his eyes. While not the stirring and powerful performance of Whitaker, McAvoy certainly made one understand why Amin was able to get into power. McAvoy was the everyman who wanted so much to believe that Amin would revitalize the country that they refused to see what a monster he really was.
The film is fictional, of course, but it is based on the real persona of Idi Amin. His name has become synonymous with terror worldwide and is considered to be on the same level as Adolf Hitler in the way he murdered his countrymen. Estimates are that he killed close to 500,000 people during his 8 years as President, and in some cases, according to rumors, cannibalized them. It is a horrific story that many people of this generation know nothing about. Creating a story around the true events is an impressive one but at the same times makes you wonder how much is based in reality and how much was based in fiction. The entire Nicholas story is used as a plot device, but supposedly everything Amin does is what really happened. That makes the beginning of the movie unnecessarily long because up until Amin shows up, none of that actually occurred. It makes the line between reality and fiction a thin one, but to me when a movie is based on truth, the fictional part should be kept short to reduce any chance of people thinking it happened. Still, the beauty of Africa is shown from the start and is worth looking at. It's just when Whitaker makes his first appearance that the movie truly takes off.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I thought The Last King of Scotland was an extremely powerful story with some tremendous acting performances. It is easily one of the best movies of the year and if Forest Whitaker isn't considered for an Oscar, something has gone terribly wrong.
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