Review: The Last King of Scotland

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  November 15, 2006 @ 8:34am

Filed under: Movie Reviews 

There have been a lot of films about the atrocities that grip many parts of the African continent. From 1971 to 1979, the African country of Uganda was gripped under the tyrannical rule of Idi Amin (played in the film by Forest Whitaker). Amin's blood-thirsty rule crippled the country as it is estimated that 300,000 people fell to his troops.

The Last King of Scotland tells the story of young impressionable doctor Nicolas Garrigan (James McAvoy), who comes to Uganda with a big heart and a devotion to help the struggling people. Garrigan, a fictional protagonist, helps Amin during an automobile accident and makes an impression on the newly appointed dictator. Garrigan is taken under Amin's wing as his personal physician. At first, Garrigan is delighted and swept up into majesty of the "man who would be king". But later, Garrigan will learn to regret his decision as Amin's insanity starts to unravel.

Based on the 1998 novel, the film's sole purpose was to deliver us into the inner sanctum of one of history's most modern-day savage rulers. The filmmakers spent a lot time and effort on that very thing as they made the world of Amin feel so authentic. That is the reason why I loved this film, because as an audience member you could see deeper into history and see so much of what made Amin tick. I was blown away and captivated.

The dynamic performances from Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy are out of this world. The last time I remember Whitaker being this good was way back in the Clint Eastwood directed bio-pic Bird from 1988. But hands down, this is the best of his career, because the man is magnificent. McAvoy is new on the Hollywood scene for a lot of us and he will definitely be one to watch in years to come.

The relationship between Amin and Garrigan in the film for me echoed a lot of the relationship between Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer from the 1981 film The Bunker. Garrigan contemplates killing Amin and eventually betrays him just like that of Speer. The oil and water relationship between both men in the film is so fleshed out in the script, but what is interesting is that for a small portion of the film you do see this savage man in a different light and maybe even a human being for a fraction of a second.

My biggest sadness regarding this film is that the film wasn't pushed more and released wider during its initial run in theatres back in September. More people needed to see this film and given that it took this long to reach my marketplace, writing this review seems like a mere afterthought.

This is probably one of the most enjoyable historical fiction films to come around in a long time and you so shouldn't miss it wherever you are. (5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

Tags: The Last King of Scotland, Forest Whitaker, Africa

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