THE LAST KING OF SCOTLANDIdi Amin
was one messed up dude. For those who don’t know, he was a dictator in Uganda from 71-79 whose actual list of abuses is shrouded in hearsay, mystery, rumor and is wrapped in a burrito or something. Numbers of citizens murdered by his regime vary from 100,000 to 500,000. There are stories of him horribly mutilating his wife and performing acts of cannibalism that are sometimes reported as true, sometimes erroneous. “The Last King of Scotland”
takes a humanizing tact with the quite literally larger than life leader portraying him as an overgrown child, complete with tantrums. Deadly tantrums. This is why most children are not allowed to play with machine guns. And those that are tend to have more candy than they actually need.James McAvoy
plays fresh faced medical school graduate Nicholas Garrigan
, a fictional character that the story centers around, who goes to Uganda in order to have an adventure after graduating medical school. He starts working for a tiny missionary clinic that is badly in need of the extra help, what with the country being in the middle of a military coup. When Garrigan
and coup leader Amin
) meet, Idi
is taken with Garrigan
’s frankness and is almost uncomfortably into his Scottish heritage. Garrigan is nonplussed though and likes Amin for his enormous affability and social optimism for what he wants to do for his poor country. After a bit of wheedling, Amin
into becoming his personal physician. And everyone lived happily ever after and nothing bad ever happened in Uganda ever again. Except not.
As charming as McAvoy
can be (and, as my lady Merry
is forcing me to point out, stunningly good looking), the draw of “The Last King of Scotland”
’s channeling of Amin
in a fashion that the West has rarely seen him. He’s boisterous, fun, charming, and genuinely in love with his country. We watch his friendship with McAvoy
with even more of a sense of dread because of it; we know going into it that the fun relationship between these two is going to go REAL bad. Jobs like leading a country often require more than just being a patriotic life of the party; Imin became paranoid well past the point of insanity and hundreds of thousands suffered for it. Whitaker
is, in turns, enormously lovable and then absolutely terrifying and his portrayal of the downslide is a masterful one, very much earning the Best Actor statue he took home for the role from the 2007 Academy Awards.
Stuck watching the man dangerously disintegrate, McAvoy
’s initial jubilation at his good fortune quickly turns to shock and then fear for his life. You've got to give him kudos; pulling off the scenes where we know he was supposed to be frightened to the core of Amin
, but has to smile and act unflapped to his face was a helluva balancing act of a performance. One of the downsides of the film though is that it’s impossible to really sympathize with his character as almost everything bad that happens to him he brings on himself. It’s hard to like a guy who shows a preference for other men’s wives right from the get-go. I kind of wish they’d decided to tell this story without his unnecessary addition to this fictionalized history because make no mistake, despite McAvoy
's definite skills, this is Whitaker
’s show, 100%. He OWNS this part, making Amin
a much scarier clown than Pennywise
every dreamed of being. Even so, the choice to use Garrison
's own idealistic nature saddled with his deep human flaws to mirror Amin
’s own personality is a wise one and is used to good effect.
Extras are merely ported over from the DVD edition in SD, There’s almost 45 minutes worth of featurettes that are worth a look, especially the “Capturing Idi Amin”
making-of that discusses the actual history in more detail. Also there are about 12 minutes of deleted scenes including an alternate beginning. It’s not much of surprise anymore that these films are all being shuffled off to HD with no new extras but it’s still disappointing. I can't imagine giving this any less than a BUY
though regardless; it's a quality film that deserves to be seen. While it may not be, strictly speaking, historically accurate, and it doesn’t linger over the depth of the atrocities committed by the man, “The Last King of Scotland”
is a showcase for a powerhouse performance by Whitaker
, easily the best of his career, and a very human introduction for one of the stranger monsters in history.
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