Monday, 21 September 2020
The Last King of Scotland
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Tuesday, 23 January 2007 00:00
The Oscar nominations have been announced and Forest Whitaker has claimed a place among the nominees for Actor in a Leading Role. His film, The Last King of Scotland, has been causing quite a stir due to Whitaker’s uncanny portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. But whether or not history is your strong suit, it is hard not to be drawn in by this powerful and sometimes brutal film.

The brief opening sequence introduces us to Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), an idealistic young Scott who realizes that his career choice as a doctor has placed him permanently under his fathers thumb. Looking for some form of escape, he spins a globe and vows to go wherever his finger lands first. Fate plunges him (and us) into Uganda, which seems an excellent choice for a young man looking to make a difference.

A chance encounter with the country’s new president feeds Garrigan’s ego and pushes him into a high profile life as Amin’s personal doctor. Newspapers begin insultingly call him the “white monkey”, but Amin reassures him that he is his closest advisor and the only one he can trust.

Seemingly a man of the people, the real Amin displayed charm and charisma to the public and cunningly played the media to his advantage. He smiled for the camera, even while he flexing his authoritative muscle to slaughter entire tribes of his own people. His paranoia made him suspicious of everyone and caused him to act with violence for fear of being overthrown. During his nine years in power he expelled all Asians from his country, collaborated with terrorists and was responsible for the deaths of over 300,000 people.

The movie takes an up close and personal look at Amin through the eyes of Garrigan who is seduced by the friendship and power he is offered. By the time he realizes his mistake, all means of escape have been cut off and he may feel the wrath of the man he once admired.

While this film has the look and feel of a documentary it plays out with all the excitement of a taught political thriller. As you’ve already heard, the performance by Forest Whitaker is incredible. His hulking size makes him a playful teddy bear or a menacing villain and he runs the gamut, easily switching between the two with a subtle change of expression. Given the nominees I think he should easily take the Oscar for this role. I’m disappointed however that James McAvoy isn’t on the list for Best Supporting Actor. He brought life to a fictional character that held his own admirably opposite such a strong historical presence. He too shows good range as Garrigan’s ideals are slowly destroyed along with his hope for the future.

This movie is definitely intended for an adult audience and can be hard to take at times. There are several scenes visually disturbing or brutally violent that might be burned into your brain for a few days. But this is a film worth seeing and will resonate long after the lights go out on the big screen.

I give The Last King of Scotland an 8 out of 10.