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Last King of Scotland

A movie directed by Kevin MacDonald

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Haunting thriller which had me on edge

  • May 14, 2007
  • by
As much as I enjoyed this film Forest Whitaker's portrayal of Idi Amin is frightening. When you first meet Amin he is fun, approachable and it was easy to find inspiration in his words and personality. Throughout the movie his personality changes from inspiring to paranoid and terrifying. Whitaker's performance flows naturally in and out of these two men trapped in one body. He never misplaces his anger in a sweet scene; his glints of admiration never seep out during a frenzied rant. Whitaker avoids all hints of schizophrenia and ignores all opportunities to dive into multiple personality disorder. Garrigan is unaware of what's happening in Uganda at first, but even after he realizes what Amin is doing, he does nothing to stop him. During the movie, I had to restrain myself from yelling at Garrigan to stop what he's doing, to leave right away or to just do what had to be done. McAvoy's seamlessly grows his character from an acorn to a diseased oak.

The supporting cast isn't outshined by the main characters. Kerry Washington plays Kay Amin, Idi Amin's third wife. Her performance is tender, perplexing and sexy. Gillian Anderson plays Sarah Merrit, Garrigan's first love interest in the story. Her sage words and cool demeanor will be left ringing in your ears by the end of the movie. Simon McBurney, Nigel Stone's character, is monstrous in the covert, James Bond sort of way. His maniacal character is not over acted, absolutely to the credit to Stone.

Jeremy Brock and Peter Morgan use an historic figure to tell a cautionary tale about what happens when you let fear decide who runs your country and what happens when your blind ambition overrules your moral center. Their characters are complete and lacking no texture. The temptation to make characters who are strictly monsters or heroes is avoided. Each character, even Amin, is not strictly good, nor bad, but products of their circumstances. I found the recipe for creating a monster far too realistic to be comfortable and for that I thank the writers for giving me the opportunity to feel that level of discomfort. Even the hero of this movie is only slightly heroic; leaving the melodramatic phony heroics for a superhero movie. Garrigan's transformation left me wondering if I could be any stronger than he is, given the situation he got himself into. I was impressed that the cinematographers and directors made a point of changing the camera style, lighting and framing to fit the mood of the movie. There are scenes where the sweat on someone's face seems radiant in the dark. There is an impressive use of light to set mood that doesn't fall into the cliché parenthesis.

This shattered my personal peace. It has left me to question my own behavior. Have I paid enough attention to my own life? Have I let raw, unadulterated ambition kill parts of my humanity? What would I do in that situation? At what point would I run screaming from Uganda? Can we afford to be afraid and let that fear color our decisions when it comes to our government? How can I tell if someone is a monster when they are so charismatic? Has my ambition hurt other people?" The Last King of Scotland" is a heart pounding drama that left me uneasy, utterly disappointed with the quality of the characters' behavior and inspired by the quality of the film making. Missing this movie would be bad for your cinematic knowledge and for your personal growth.

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More Last King of Scotland reviews
review by . October 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The Last King of Scotland is one of those movies that I just didn’t quite grasp. Unfortunately this is more likely to happen with me if the film is an Oscar type movie that gets gangbuster reviews.      Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) graduates with his MD. Rather than stay in Scotland and practice family medicine with his father, he spins the globe and (after his finger lands on Canada, he tries again) his finger lands on Uganda. He goes into the wilds of Uganda to join …
review by . December 24, 2008
Pros: Whitaker's outstanding performance.     Cons: Very few; could have been longer and more engaging.     The Bottom Line: Be prepared, The Last King of Scotland is a hard film to watch, much like Amin’s brutal reign was hard to comprehend and watch unfold on 1970’s era television.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. When I was a teenager Idi Amin Dada, Uganda's late, not-so-great …
review by . November 17, 2008
A mix of fiction and the truth   that leaves us sad, but wiser   the secrets of Idi Amin   as told by his advisor     A doctor leaves his Scottish home   to help folk in Uganda   he's soon caught up in Amin's world   seduced by propaganda     The dictator with two different sides   one charming, one insane   three hundred thousand people died   during his bloody reign …
review by . January 18, 2008
LAST KING OF SCOTLAND suffers from some of the same problems as HOTEL RWANDA. It is timid in its exploration of the atrocities committed by Idi Amin. While I have no interest in seeing horrible things happen to humans just for the sake of entertainment (I can watch HOSTEL if that's what interests me), I also feel that a true understanding of what Amin inflicted on his country is missing from this film. The way he's presented, he mostly seems like a charismatic but unstable leader, who become increasingly …
review by . April 18, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND delves into the history of Ugandan leadership in the 1970s with gusto. One of the characters (Sarah, the doctor's wife) wisely observes that the crowds that fill the streets cheering as Idi Amin takes control from Milton Obote had the same reaction for the previous dictator and will have the same for the one who follows Amin. It is that aspect of this very fine film that hits home: the people desperately want to be ruled by a hero who will care for them and they maintain …
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Jen-Jay AKA:JJI ()
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Forest Whitaker delivers a 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 is his counterpart Sarah Merrit (Gillian Armstrong), whose experience causes her to be skeptical of Amin's bombastic declarations. After an automobile accident, Nick is called in to treat the president's wounds. His authoritative behavior 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 realize 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 bef...

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 fictionalized 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...
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Director: Kevin Macdonald
Genre: Drama
Release Date: January 12, 2007
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: October 13, 2009
Runtime: 123 min
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
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