Rated R for some strong violence and gruesome images, sexual content and language.
Directed By: Kevin MacDonald
Written By: Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock
Staring: Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, and Simon McBurney
“They take you to a tree and hang you by your skin. Each time you scream the evil comes out of you. Sometimes, it can take three days for your evil to be spent. Pull him up.” -Idi Amin
Without question this was one of the most intense movies I have seen in a long time. Forest Whitaker was the recipient of a Best Actor Academy Award and now after viewing it, was a well deserved acknowledgement. He was incredible, but then the entire cast was phenomenal, and the way Kevin MacDonald depicted this glance into Amin’s reign of terror, but how easy it might have been to be seduced by him was an act of absolute brilliance.
A young Scottish doctor leaves his home for Uganda in search of the unknown and adventure in his life. When a series of events lead to his appointment as the personal physician of a brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, he becomes the one of the dictators most trusted advisers. A simple doctor entranced by the face that Amin chose to show him, he is swept in a world of fantasy, that is no more than a mask for terror and violence. When the truth of Amin becomes clear and the mask begins to reveal it’s horrid face, Nicholas only wishes for his adventure to end. He’s in too deep and the dictator refuses to grant him leave from the country. Nicholas is suddenly a prisoner of his own making.
There was a gradual transition of the youthful doctor played by James McAvoy from where he was an idealist, inspired and enthusiastic for adventure, with a true zest for life to Amins biggest supporter, and then to nail biting finale where he appears to have aged years and years from the stress of his powerful acquaintance. The film is viewed all from Nicholas’s perspective and though showed Uganda’s violence wasn’t shown in an exploitative way. Sheltered by his education in Scotland and having no real understanding of what was happening around him had to be shocking, and Kevin McDonald, the director, made that point clear.
The highlight of the film was the performance by Forest Whitaker, which almost overshadowed the rest of the film, and even McAvoy’s strong performance. He portrayed Amin through the eyes of his personal physician Nicholas, whom he showed a certain vulnerability, a childlike sense of humor, and a personal attachment and trust. Only when he felt that trust violated did he truly show the maniac behind the facade. The dangerous man who was almost as charming andlogical in his murderous state as in his calm happy mood. Whitaker’s performance was incendiary and heightened the quality of the film by miles because of it.
The Last King Of Scotland was a film that was good but became much more due to the performances of the two main actors, Whitaker in particular. It’s intense nature and very personal look into two men’s lives made every minute tense and nerve wrecking. This is not a movie for the light hearted, but a glimpse into a man perspective on one of the most vicious dictators of Africa and humanized him. This is an intense movie that passes by quickly, but it’s worth watching at least once.