Movie Reviews: The Last King of Scotland




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     20th Century Fox
     A fictional account of a doctor’s relationship with the former ruler of an East African country.
     Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, Stephan Rwangyezi
Bottom Line:

Samantha Ofole-Prince

Based on Giles Foden's best-selling novel, "The Last King of Scotland" is a glamorized feature film about the relationship between a young Scottish doctor and the former exiled ruler of Uganda.

James McAvoy, plays the naïve doctor Nicholas Garrigan whose thirst for action and adventure upon completing medical school leads him to the city of Kampala, where a chance meeting with the Ugandan president Idi Amin turns into his worst nightmare. What starts off as a mutual friendship soon takes a darker and deeper turn as he begins an odyssey into the inner circle of one of Africa’s most horrific reigns of terror.

This movie is a juxtaposed version of fact and fiction woven into what should be a powerful and astounding flick, and although it’s well made and is somewhat racy, it fails to tug at the heartstrings despite its intense and volatile subject matter and just ends up simply being mildly entertaining. Still, it’s Whitaker’s most impressive role to date and he truly gives 110% to his role as Amin, whose violent rise to power in 1971 combined with the atrocities he performed throughout his reign has earned him a title as one of the world’s worst dictators, joining the ranks of Hitler, Stalin and Sadam Hussein. Although Whitaker bears little physical resemblance to Amin, with an altered hairline and a skin tone darkened to match the tyrannical dictator’s, he immerses himself completely into the role transforming himself into Idi Amin Dada; posture, culture, lingo and charisma. He was also able to evoke Amin’s split personality, allure and menace. "I feel like I did everything that I could do. If it works it works, but I gave myself everything and I served the character and the project completely and in every way. There wasn’t anything else I could have done," says Whitaker about this portrayal of the comical president who had a fascination with everything Scottish. The lush greenery and culture of Uganda is also aptly captured and an appropriate balance of the country complete with rustic villages, and modernist architecture is astounding and shows a more realistic image of Africa. "It was important to me to show an image of Africa that wasn’t familiar to people," says director Kevin McDonald. "People think of Africa and they think you are living in mud huts and primitive conditions in the outback or in the bush or in slums in the city. The thing about Uganda is that it was at that time a very prosperous and successful country."

"The Last King of Scotland" does accurately follow all the major events which occurred throughout Amin’s reign such as his expulsion of the country's entire Asian population in order to create an all black nation, the hostage crises at Entebbe Airport and the brutal dismemberment of one his five wives, Kay Amin, played by Kerry Washington. Its downside however, is that it toys too much with ‘white hero in Africa’ pattern and fails to fully capture the problems of post colonial Africa and the dreary existence of Amin’s reign where up to 500,000 Ugandans were killed. Intense and powerful it isn’t, but entertaining it is. It’s worth viewing if only to get a glimpse of Uganda and immerse oneself in culture, but if it’s a moving and gratifying account of Amin’s leadership that you seek, then you will be a tad disappointed.



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