Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Last King of Scotland

image(2006)
Directed by
Kevin Macdonald
Written by Peter Morgan, Jeremy Brock, from a novel by Giles Foden
Starring Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson
IMDB Entry

Bad guys in film are all very similar:  people who are evil for evil’s sake, and who will spend the movie being consistently evil from start to finish. But evil isn’t always consistent, and that’s what makes it dangerous.  And one one of the best examples of this is The Last King of Scotland.

Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James MacAvoy) is young and idealistic and instead of setting out his shingle, decides to see the world, ending up in Uganda. While there, General Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker) seized power and, after a minor car accident, Garrigan treats his injury.  Amin is impressed by Garrigan, especially by the fact he is from Scotland, a country that Amin has a particular admiration for. 

Garrigan becomes his physician and political confidant, believing that Amin repression is just a way to bring a lasting peace.  In the meantime, Garrigan starts helping Kay (Kerry Washington), one of Amin’s wives, helping to treat their son.  The two start an affair, as Amin becomes more and more repressive and dictatorial, and Garrigan discovers he is riding a tiger.

Forest Whitaker won a well-deserved Oscar for his role.  Amin is truly charming when he wants to be, and utterly ruthless and sadistic when he wants that.  He is capable of anything at any point, a truly frightening figures.

McAvoy is great as the na├»ve and idealistic doctor, who finds out how wrong he has been.  Kerry Washington is also good as Kay, who knows she is playing with a blowtorch but still needs the comfort that Garrigan can offer.

Whitaker’s Oscar was the high point of the film and did little to bring it to further consciousness.  And I suspect the subject makes it sound like a dull historical drama.  But his Amin is well worthy of the honor, and the movie is a fascinating look at the madness of power.

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