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There have been so few pictures this year that are standouts. This
movie is one of them. Much of what you will see is true, and did occur
in Uganda's history. Amin's doctor, played by James Macavoy, is the
main fiction in the movie, but one would think they are watching a
historical event. Macavoy's character is so real. The doctor grows from
a free thinking, adventure loving, womanizer, to a scared, concerned,
and enlightened person. The viewer watches through Macavoys eyes as he
witnesses the horrors of Amin's (Forest Whitaker's) presidency and
Forest Whitaker, IS Amin in this feature. Whitaker is not the silent sometimes brooding character you remember in other films he has been in. His accent,his face, and his emotions seem to no longer be Whitaker's but Amin's. This movie will scare the viewer because of its realism, and how it builds up to a tension that is hard to endure. The visuals are not for the squeamish. Go ahead and hide your eyes during the "tough" scenes. It is still worth seeing this movie for the fast paced story, realistic drama, fascinating tale, and for the unbelievable acting. By the end of the movie the audience is exhausted, but satisfied that they saw a worthy flick.
Greetings again from the darkness. A true tour de force by Forest
Whitaker ... the best performance of the year so far! Somehow Mr.
Whitaker captures the madness and charm of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
Amin was one of the first political rock stars. He used the media to
his advantage as his regime slaughtered hundreds of thousands of his
Also impressive is James McAvoy ("Chronicles of Narnia") who plays the dramatized Nicholas Garrigan, a young doctor who sets out on an adventure to make a difference in a small country and ends up counseling one of the most powerful madmen in history. Scottish documentarian Kevin Macdonald directs the film with only a few lapses in directness, which serve this biopic very well. Watching Amin and the young doctor immerse themselves in the shower of power is both frightening and sickening. Macdonald captures this spirit very well thanks mostly to his willingness to let his two leads do their thing.
As Amin laughs and tells Garrigan that "You are my closest adviser", I couldn't help but compare to Kathy Bates telling James Caan (in "Misery") that "I'm your number one fan". The evil and insanity is simply chilling. Whitaker is just amazing as he flips the switch from media darling to cold blooded, ruthless murderer ... and then back again. Just a terrific performance and well worth the price of admission - maybe a couple of times! Good for a laugh is the most unique version of Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee" that you have ever heard ... guaranteed! See this one for a bit of history and the site of a real monster, but also for one of the best film performances ever.
How can an actor terrify you without saying a word, without even hardly moving his face or body? I'm not sure how he does it, but Mr. Whitaker does it over and over again in this movie. And then he turns around the next minute and becomes giant hug-able teddy bear superhero. Forget all the others, this is the best horror film of the year. This movie, and his performance in particular, grab hold of you and never let go. Whitaker should win an Oscar for best actor, I've never seen a better performance in my life. Also notable is the Nicholas Garrigan character who is written and acted very skilfully to draw the (non-African) spectator into the world of Uganda and Amin. The way his character willingly "falls into" Amin's web of charisma somehow goes a long way toward mitigating the racist potential of a story about a very troubled (African black) man. The way the interplay of the two lead character's cultural backgrounds plays out on screen moves the story beyond just their personalities and into the realm of incisive socio-political analysis and critique. This movie is quite incredible, really.
With "The Last King of Scotland," Kevin MacDonald has created a
bracing, exciting and totally satisfying thriller.
Forest Whitaker gives a titanic performance as Idi Amin, Ugandan dictator who rose to power in the 1970s. James McAvoy plays Nicholas Garrigan, a Scottish physician who travels to Uganda for the adventure and wins Amin's affections, becoming his personal doctor. Garrigan enters into a moral crisis as he begins to realize the kind of man Amin is, and begins to fear for his own life as events spiral more and more out of his control.
Whitaker seizes the chance to play this larger than life character and runs with it -- I've never seen Whitaker give so convincing and transforming a performance. However, as good as he is, McAvoy impressed me more. His performance as Garrigan is not as showy, but it's much more textured and subtle, and his character has the bigger arc from start to finish. Gillian Anderson also does terrific work in a small role as a fellow doctor, who understands things about Amin and the African culture that Garrigan does not.
Unlike other recent thrillers set in African nations ("The Constant Gardener," "Hotel Rwanda"), "The Last King of Scotland" is not greatly concerned with the geo-political implications of Amin's reign. The atrocities he committed against Ugandans are given only the barest of mentions, and the film sticks almost exclusively to Garrigan and the danger he himself faces. Some may think the film is irresponsible for this reason -- that the plight of one man pales in comparison to the plight of thousands, and I can see where a criticism like that is justified. But the movie packs a powerful wallop regardless, and complaints like this seem like quibbles when up against such an entertaining movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Life, unlike bad movies, is seldom obvious. In life, murderous
dictators don't appear - especially at first - as mustache-twirling
Snidley Whiplash figures, cackling madly (although Mussolini came
close). The scary truth about monsters is that they are
three-dimensional beings, not cardboard cutouts, who just kill a lot of
people, but otherwise put their pants on one leg at a time, like you
and I, and that makes them so much scarier than if they came from
In the best film of the "dictator genre," Oliver Hirschbiegel's brilliant "Downfall," Hitler appears as a man who is kind to his dog and his secretary (roughly in that order), and the impact of the work is all the greater as we witness what a "real person" is capable of doing. In Luis Puenzo's "The Official Story," Pinochet's reign of terror is depicted through a single act of violence, as a door is slammed on Norma Aleandro's hand; the effect is stunning and "real."
In the hands of a less talented director, the story of Idi Amin would be told against mountains of skulls and bones left behind by Uganda's mad ruler in the 1970s. (His total toll is estimated at 300,000.) In Kevin Macdonald's complex, intelligent, gripping "The Last King of Scotland," more than half of the two-hour film subtly implies, hints at the dark forces underneath normalcy while "life goes on."
And so, having established real contact with the audience, a jolly and seductive Forest Whitaker then takes our breath away as the mask comes off, and his Amin reaches out from the screen for your throat.
Macdonald - whose previous works are documentaries, including the Oscar-winning "One Day in September," about the Munich Olympics terrorist incident - looks at Amin through the eyes of a young Scottish doctor (James McAvoy), a well-meaning, honest humanitarian slowly seduced by the Scots-loving Amin, who appoints him his personal doctor and then adviser.
The McAvoy character is fictional (although Amin did have a Scottish doctor), coming from Giles Foden's novel of the same name, but just about everything else in the film is based on fact - so much so that some documentary footage is smoothly integrated into the film. And yet, what's important and outstanding about "Last King" is that just as a painting can surpass a photograph in presenting reality, this film conveys the seduction and horror of a brutal dictatorship indirectly, subtly, unexpectedly.
Unexpected - and welcome - are the many flashes of humor, both Whitaker (dictator with personality) and McAvoy (eager pup of a doctor with overactive hormones) making the best of it. The tone is set in the opening sequence, as the frustrated, suppressed young Dr. Garrigan spins a small globe, swearing repeatedly that he will move to the first spot ("the first!") where he points when the globe stops. The first spot turns out to be Canada. McAvoy/Garrigan takes one look, hesitates... and spins again. And so to Uganda...
The linear, freely-flowing story-telling is masterful, taking us from the small village where Dr. Garrigan comes to do good and ends up doing well through a chance meeting with Amin, to Kampala, much court intrigue and colorful depravity (even as the fate of a nation is at stake), and eventually to Entebbe.
Fun and games, authentic scenery (the film was shot in Uganda), subtlety, psychology, a heart-pounding scene at Entebbe (after the hijacking, but before the Israeli rescue), nudity, sex, violence, harrowing questions about "what would you do," and all - "Last King" is a wonderful compendium of facts and greater truths. Also, a hell of a good movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Last King of Scotland" is a slickly made powder keg of a film
about Idi Amin's (Forest Whitaker) horrific dictatorship over Uganda in
the 1970's as seen through the eyes of his fictionalized Scottish
doctor (James McAvoy). Whitaker is mesmerizing from the word "go" and
brilliantly displays how captivating a character Amin was: charming,
theatrical, paranoid, and mad as hell.
Director Kevin MacDonald only alludes to the horrors (300,000 massacred) while delivering a music-video style account of the free-wheeling decadence of Amin's regime while he still played in favor to his people. Much of the film runs like the early parts of P.T. Anderson's "Boogie Nights" or any gangster saga from Scrorsese: hyper-edited, smoothly shot scenes depicting humor, violence, sex, nudity, and overly-indulged individuals new to money and power. It would've been more compelling had tighter focus been paid to Amin instead of the highly unlikable doctor character, who for the most part comes across as a flighty, over-educated twit with foggy ideas on good deeds and uncontrollable hormones that lead him to hounding after every marginally attractive married woman he comes across, including a barely recognizable Gillian Anderson donning a British accent, and Kerry Washington as Amin's third wife (duh, doc!).
About two-thirds of the way through, MacDonald lets Whitaker loose, and his rampage is awe-inspiring. It culminates in a pulse-pounding white-knuckle twenty minutes that muddle a historical event concerning Israeli hostages with the shockingly brutal finale of the young Scott's stay in Uganda. Again, it would've been more emotionally involving had the doctor been more deserving of our sympathy. Still, Whitaker is fuming and unforgettable. He totally embodies the spirit of the oft-discussed and debated mad dictator, so much so that when the closing credits roll and we see stock footage of the real Amin, you'd swear these were images of Idi Amin playing Forest Whitaker.
Forest Whitaker's ferociously charismatic turn as Idi Amin so dominates
this intense historical fiction that it is honestly difficult to pay
attention to anything else in this 2006 political thriller. Even though
he is definitively the emotional locus, he is intriguingly not the
protagonist of the story. That role belongs to young James McAvoy, who
plays Nicholas Garrigan, a precocious Scottish doctor who ventures to
Uganda to satisfy his need for adventure after graduating medical
school. By happenstance, Garrigan is called upon to help Amin with a
minor sprain after his private car plows into a cow. Impressed by the
young man's lack of hesitancy to take action, Amin appoints Garrigan to
be his personal physician, a post that seduces the impressed doctor
into the Ugandan dictator's political inner circle and extravagant
Scottish director Kevin MacDonald brings his extensive documentary film-making skills to the fore here, as he creates a most realistic-feeling atmosphere in capturing the oppressive Uganda of the 1970's. Helping considerably with this image are the vibrant color contrasts in Anthony Dod Mantle's cinematography and the propulsive action induced by Justine Wright's sharp editing. Screenwriters Peter Morgan (who also wrote "The Queen") and Jeremy Brock have developed a sharply delineated character study of Amin, who evolves from a magnetic leader giving hope to his people to a scarifying tyrant conducting murders on an imaginable scale (at least until the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur). It is impossible to over-praise Whitaker's towering performance here. He conveys the dictator's playfulness as well as his unmitigated rage moving from simmering to full boil with a power that is at once bravura and subtle. His relationship with the fictionalized Garrigan turns out to be the plot's essential pivot point, although the contrast between the two can be almost too extreme at times.
While McAvoy admirably captures the boyish naiveté of Garrigan, the character is drawn out in rather broad strokes that make his self-delusion all the more contrived as the story progresses. To intensify the political upheaval portrayed, the plot takes a melodramatic turn into an adulterous affair and even folds in the infamous 1976 Entebbe hijacking incident to illustrate Garrigan's increasingly precarious situation. It's all exciting and even downright brutalizing toward the end, but it also starts to feel a bit too Hollywood in execution. Kerry Washington shows genuine versatility as Amin's cloistered third wife Kay, while Simon McBurney oozes cynical suspicion with ease as a British operative. A convincingly Brit-accented Gillian Anderson makes her few scenes count as a weary clinic worker who proves to have better instincts than Garrigan. But see the movie for Whitaker's magnificent work. He is that good.
The last king of Scotland is scorcher of a film that follows the story
of the horrid dictatorship that took over Uganda in the 1970s. The
movie is seen completely through the eyes of young Nicolas Garrigan(
James Mcavoy)a young Scottish doctor who decides he is tired of
Scotland and ready to venture into another country to make a
Soon after he begins his work in the town he begins a friendship with Idi Amin(Forest Whitaker)a powerful African leader who offers Garrigan a job as his personal doctor. Their developing relationship is wonderful to behold on screen, and for me was the main strength and the key point that made this movie go above and beyond.
Being a ill informed young adult I know close to nothing about African history, so therefore I had no idea what kind of leader Idi Amin was until the crashing scene when Garrigan figures out that he is actually a murderous dictator, who is destroying the African economy. This misfortune of mine made this particular moment in the film simply magic, and I found myself just trying to get my head around how such a loving and joyful character can actually be so violent.
End of Spoiler:
This is where I realized what a fantastic performance Forest Whitaker had actually given. He had fooled me into thinking he was someone else, he had made me think that he was actually a genuine democrat only concerned about the Ugandan people. His change in character is so superb at times too that I found myself thinking that is simply unfair. James Mcavoy although overshadowed by Forest Whitakers brilliant performance deserves credit too. His portrayal of the young Scottish doctor who is both naive and brave is fantastic, and it is great to watch the young Scotsman grow with every movie hes in.
Overall this is a simply astonishing film, telling an important story with some great performances. No criticism even worth mentioning for this movie that kept me on the edge of my seat til the very end.
A freshly graduated young doctor Nicolas from Scotland went to Uganda
in 1970s hoping that he could offer his helping hands to the Ugandan
people. Instead of serving the poor and needed, he met the charismatic
Uganda dictator Idi Amin and his life is forever changed.
I didn't know anything about Idi Amin before the film, but I know a great deal about him after the film. He is charismatic yet brutal. I can see myself to become his friend when I first meet him and then realize that he can be the worst monster in my life and I want to escape far away from him. Idi Amin's character is so lively and fascinating in this film, through the terrific performance by Forest Whitaker.
I know it's just the beginning of the Oscar season, but Forest Whitaker definitely gives an Oscar worthy performance in this film as Idi Amin.
It's such a gripping film that keeps me on the edge of my seat all the time.
The performance is outstanding, the cinematography is breathtaking, the story is compelling, the music is deeply moving, and the film is simply fantastic.
And the Oscar is written all over it.
Yes, I am giving it a rare 10 out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In this film Kevin Macdonald, a Scot, directs James McAvoy, a Scot, as
Nicholas Garrigan, a brash, spirited, and foolish young doctor just out
of medical school in the early 1970's who overnight becomes a close
associate of Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), the new dictator of Uganda.
Amin had served in the British army and developed an admiration for the
Scots. He gave himself the title "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."
He liked to dress his soldiers in kilts and have them sing Scottish
Before this Macdonald made Touching the Void and other documentaries, including One Day in September, about the Munich Israeli Olympic team massacre. This film, which is not a documentary and departs freely from fact at least at certain key points, is based on the 1997 novel by Giles Foden, which concerns the doctor. But Macdonald's writers, including Jeremy Brock, who penned Mrs. Brown, and Peter Morgan, who scripted Frears' The Queen, have jazzed up the more bland original character and made him younger and bolder. Garrigan has picked Uganda at random. He is attractive and dashing: he's already flirting with the pretty blonde wife of the head of the rural medical clinic he's come to work in, when he's grabbed, with her, to "save" the paranoid Amin. The newly ascended President for Life has hurt his hand in an accident involving a farmer's cow. Garrigan impresses Amin by not just calmly fixing his sprained hand but also grabbing his presidential pistol and putting the cow out of its misery.
When Amin learns Nicholas is a Scot, he takes off his military shirt complete with medals and trades it on the spot for a "Scotland" T-shirt Nicolas is wearing -- for his son, Campbell. Amin has another son named Macgregor.
Almost immediately thereafter Amin persuades the young doctor to leave the clinic and become his personal physician in Kampala, the capital (where the movie was shot), sets him up with a Mercedes and a posh apartment in the presidential compound, and makes him a most trusted consultant, allowing him to decide on the design for a major building. Observing this exceptional access, a cynical British diplomat (Simon McBurney) approaches Nicholas and cautions him to "keep in touch," an offer the young man initially rebuffs.
Garrigan's seduced, as are we, initially, by Amin's charisma and charm, and only gradually does he become skeptical and eventually horrified as he realizes he's the intimate of a ferocious dictator who, estimates say, killed off 300,000 of his citizens, as well as expelling all the Asians from the country. What's interesting is how the daring young man as we see him can hardly help being thus seduced; how the two men seduce each other. But Nicholas is in a terribly weak position when things go wrong. Whitaker and McAvoy play off each other nicely as they act out this process.
Several dramatic events involving Garrigan in the two-hour film's latter segment strain credulity, including the way the young doctor's escape is intertwined with the Entebbe plane hijacking incident, and the kinds of trouble he gets into on the way to that escape.
What makes this film, whose plot line can scarcely compete with that of the more multi-leveled and thought-provoking The Constant Gardener, and which has a grainy newsreel look that's undistinguished, is Forest Whitaker's astonishing performance as Idi Amin Dada. Whitaker usually plays soft spoken, sensitive types. This time he nails a range from fearful to seductive to terrifying, connecting them with a seamlessly explosive energy. One would say Whitaker is this picture, except that it's unmistakably also young McAvoy's. Essential to the film is the way McAvoy, who's had mostly more minor and more purely physical roles before (he was the fawn in Narnia) plays off Whitaker beautifully and woos us too with his convincing enthusiasm and dash. This is a very watchable but also disturbing movie which one wishes might have maintained greater verisimilitude. When documentarians embroider the truth, sometimes they go off way too far. But this is not unusual: a great performance in a less-than-great movie. We have to take what we can get, and in The Last King of Scotland we get a very wild ride.
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