The Last King of Scotland (2007)

Charming. Magnetic. Murderous.

Young Scottish doctor, Nicholas Garrigan decides it's time for an adventure after he finishes his formal education, so he decides to try his luck in Uganda, and arrives during the downfall of President Obote. General Idi Amin comes to power and asks Garrigan to become his personal doctor.

I am the father of Africa.
Based on Giles Foden's novel of the same name, this filmic version of a period of Idi Amin's presidency of Uganda is a class act - that is if you can accept it as a loose reworking of events in Amin's life? Thus those who filed in for a bona fide history lesson subsequently either got angry or plain disappointed.
Propelled by Forest Whitaker's barnstorming Oscar winning perf as Amin, Last King of Scotland is riveting and fascinating from first reel to last. The political upheaval at this time in Uganda's history is presented in delicate strokes of dark depressing realisations, and also that of uneasy humour.
The portrayal of Amin is most complex, part man child, part greenhorn political suitor and one heartbeat away from despotic lunacy, with Whitaker nailing every single tick. It's key to note that the film does shed some light on Amin, so as a character study it soars and holds you enthral throughout.
Director Kevin Macdonald films in kinetic style, which is perfect for the material to hand, and he also deserves a pat on the back for ensuring the characters around Amin (circle of family/advisors etc) are a constant intrigue as per Amin's agenda machinations. James McAvoy gives sterling support as the key "fish out of water" doctor who Amin takes to his bosom, while Kerry Washington as Amin's wife number 3 also strikes the right emotive notes.
The finale falters somewhat, where it encompasses the Entebbe Hostage Crisis but fails to do that incident justice - instead using it as a cypher to have us rooting for McAvoy's made up character to get out of harm's way. But this is just a misstep that's not film defining. For this is a fine film, if it's not jolting you with harrowing scenes, or tickling your brain for education purpose, then it's demanding your attention for historical noting. Job done. 8.5/10

Fox Searchlight Pictures, Cowboy Films, DNA Films, Scottish Screen, UK Film Council, Film4 Productions, Slate Films, Tatfilm by Kevin Macdonald, Peter Morgan, Jeremy Brock, Giles Foden, David Fox.
Stars: James McAvoy, Forest Whitaker, Gillian Anderson, Kerry Washington.

Genres: Biography, Drama, History, Thriller

Keywords: dictator africa based on novel or book 1970s general mass murder kidnapping naivety luxury diplomat charisma polygamy uganda dictatorship historical fiction doctor violence idi amin scottish kampala

01/12/2007

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