The Last King of Scotland (2006)

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Review #270 of 365
Film: The Last King of Scotland (2006) [R] 123 minutes
WIP™ Scale: $14.00
Where Viewed: Landmark Mayan, Denver, CO
When 1st Seen: 8 October 2006
Time: 9:45 p.m.

Directed by: Kevin Macdonald
Written by: Jeremy Brock, novel by Giles Foden, Peter Morgan, and Joe Penhall

Featured Cast (Where You Might Remember Him/Her From):

Forest Whitaker ("The Shield") • James McAvoy (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) • Kerry Washington (Little Man) • Gillian Anderson (Tristram Shandy) • Simon McBurney (Friends with Money)

Soundtrack: order the CD soundtrack below

Click for 'Review Lite' [a 150-word or less review of this film]
For those out there who have seen the potential for Forest Whitaker to play a leading role and now expect him to garner an Academy Award® nomination, seeing the Last King of Scotland will prove you right. He has been a brilliant actor simmering under the surface since his roles as Big Harold in Platoon and Amos in The Color of Money but most notably in his role in, believe it or not but, Species. The 45-year old actor got his start in bit roles in tv shows in 1982. And since then, he's appeared in Stakeout, The Crying Game, Jason's Lyric, Panic Room, hosted the new version of "The Twilight Zone" and most recently had a recurring role on the acclaimed drama "The Shield". It is doubtful, however, that despite more than 20 years in the entertainment industry and countless roles many of which have capitalized on his soulful eyes, soothing voice, and introspective physicality that seems he must command each muscle to move with a cogent argument of inspiration, that he will ever escape now his association with this stunning performance as Idi Amin Dada. The story, based on the Giles Foden novel of the same name, concerns the escapades of Amin through the eyes of a young, Scottish physician named Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy—yes he was Mr. Tumnus in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) who leaves his home country to go and do good in Africa and in Uganda in particular. Once there, however, and even with a magnetic pull from fellow doctor wife Sarah Merrit (Gillian Anderson), young Dr. Garrigan falls under the spell of brutal and ruthless Ugandan president Idi Amin and quickly accepts an appointment to be his personal and family physician. He doesn't realize in the bargain he's becoming an elder son, a trusted advisor, and earning a nick-name as "the president's white monkey" in the deal. He enters the relationship with bright eyes and a bushy tail. In fact, for a time, he probably is Amin's most loyal advisor even to the degree of supplying information on suspected spies. He turns a blind eye to his gut feelings, intuition, and the headlines in the newspaper and believes what he wants to believe. That is, until, he has an affair with one of Amin's three wives, Kay (Kerry Washington) getting her pregnant and various ministers start turning up dead all around him. He tries valiantly to protect her honor and to leave the country. Unfortunately, Amin's growing paranoia about internal coups and information leaks lead him to find out all about the affair. Well, you can imagine things don't go too well for Garrigan after that.

" Superb acting…propels this film far...lacks historical pieces that would have elevated it to one of the best films of the year. "
In what might be called an Actor's film because the roles possess such incredible depth, McAvoy and Whitaker make this movie great. It is fascinating to watch the monster emerge up from the every-man in Idi Amin. Likewise, young Garrigan has the swashbuckling gene making him fearless enough at first to say just about anything that crosses his mind. Their on-screen chemistry is electric with mutual, child-like anticipation of the great future ahead. And, then once the chaos starts and Amin turns, at last, on the one he's trusted the most, and Garrigan must face the demons head on with blinders fully removed, well, things just keep getting more intense and more frightening. Amin's true colors and brutality come through in rare force as he has to punish the man who stole his wife.

For all the great acting, however, the story gets ignored a bit. There are quite a few scenes where it's difficult to figure out, except by inference, what is going on. There's an entire shady relationship between the British who trained Amin and his rise to power. Nigel Stone (Simon McBurney) has conversations with Garrigan that even his character cannot make sense of saying at one point, "Do they send you to school to learn how to talk such bullocks?" The on-going role of the British in Uganda after Amin's rise of power is inexplicitly defined. Meanwhile, historical clarity and accuracy through Amin's actions, eyes, and voice, fail to reflect the source of his true enemies. His allegiances with the PLO, Libya, the USSR, etc. was downplayed throughout. The film also leaves the tv film " Raid on Entebbe" to fill in the details of what happens when PLO fighters highjack a plane full mostly of Israelis, are welcomed to land in Uganda, and eventually rescued by the Israeli military in an unbelievable raid which also happens to destroy most of his air force. To reach true epic status, these events would have needed to be included in the film. Less on the social escapades on Garrigan and more on the real intrigue going on in the nation.

The Last King of Scotland, so called because Edi Amin declared himself, "His Excellency President for Life Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, King of Scotland, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular", presents Forest Whitaker in one of the most commanding performances thus far this year. Superb acting in general propels this film far. The film as a whole is quite good, but it lacks historical pieces that would have elevated it to one of the best films of the year.

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Cast Members
Forest WhitakerJames McAvoyKerry Washington
Gillian AndersonSimon McBurney
CD Soundtrack

The Last King of Scotland (2006) Review-lite [150-word cap]
Based on Giles Foden's novel of the same name, The Last King of Scotland, directed by Kevin Macdonald, concerns the rise and demise of diabolical, self-appointed, Ugandan President, Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker) through the eyes of Scottish physician Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) who falls under the spell of Amin and accepts an appointment to be his personal physician. Garrigan wears blinders for Amin's atrocities only so long before he realizes he got to get out of Uganda. This is an actor's film with fascinating portrayals by Whitaker and McAvoy. Their on-screen chemistry is electric with mutual, child-like anticipation of the great future ahead. Once the chaos commences and Amin turns on the one he's trusted the most, Garrigan must face his demons head on with blinders fully removed. The film is excellent yet lacks historical pieces that would have elevated it to one of the best films of the year.

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