As the evil Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, Forest Whitaker gives an unforgettable performance in The Last King of Scotland. Powerfully illustrating the terrible truth that absolute power corrupts absolutely, this fictionalised chronicle of Amin's rise and fall is based on the acclaimed novel by Giles Foden, in which Amin's despotic reign of terror is viewed through the eyes of Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), a Scottish doctor who arrives in Uganda in the early 1970s to serve as Amin's personal physician. His outsider's perspective causes him to be initially impressed by Amin's calculated rise to power, but as the story progresses--and as Whitaker's award-worthy performance grows increasingly monstrous--The Last King of Scotland turns into a pointed examination of how independent Uganda (a British colony until 1962) became a breeding ground for Amin's genocidal tyranny. As Whitaker plays him, Amin is both seductive and horribly destructive sometimes in the same breath and McAvoy effectively conveys the tragic cost of his character's naiveté, which grows increasingly prone to exploitation. As directed by Kevin Macdonald who made the riveting semi-documentary Touching the Void, this potent cautionary tale my prompt some viewers to check out Barbet Schroeder's equally revealing documentary General Idi Amin Dada, an essential source for much of this film's authentic detail. Jeff Shannon
Forest Whitaker delivers an Oscar-winning, ferociously commanding performance as bloodthirsty Ugandan president Idi Amin in Kevin MacDonald’s THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. Adapted from the novel by Giles Foden, the film recounts Amin’s horrific reign through the eyes of a fictional character, Nick Garrigan (James McAvoy), a young doctor from Scotland who travels to Uganda hoping to do some good. Nick is more sanguine about new president Amin than his counterpart Sarah Merrit (Gillian Armstrong) is, whose experience causes her to be sceptical of Amin’s bombastic declarations. After an automobile accident, Nick is called in to treat the president’s wounds. His authoritative behaviour impresses Amin, who charms Nick into becoming his personal physician. Nick embraces his newfound life of luxury, but he is unable to grasp the reality of the situation. When he does finally realise the atrocities Amin is inflicting upon his people (and is also capable of inflicting on Nick), the terrified doctor tries to make a frantic escape before it's too late. MacDonald, director of the acclaimed documentaries ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER and TOUCHING THE VOID, makes a startlingly assured transition into fictional filmmaking with THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. Working with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (THE CELEBRATION) and editor Justine Wright, MacDonald brings 1970s Uganda to pulsating life, perfectly recreating that tumultuous era. But ultimately the film belongs to Whitaker: as he shifts from charming to maniacal in the space of a short, unexpected breath, he infuses Amin with startling humanity.
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