The Last King of Scotland
Kev Eddy 22/01/2007
This film was never going to be an easy ride. A fictionalised tale set in Idi Amin's brutal Ugandan regime? It's not exactly There's Something About Mary, is it?
No. It's not. But that doesn't preclude an awful lot of very black humour. The film itself centres around egotistical medical student Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy, continuing the 'cocky student' vein he first plumbed in Starter for Ten) who volunteers for aid work in Uganda. Due to a (slightly unbelievable) chance encounter with Amin, Garrigan ends up becoming his personal doctor - amongst other things.
The entire film oozes darkness, from the ludicrously over privileged court of Amin to the carnage outside. Even so, it's the corruption within that terrifies most: from the power-broking English diplomats to Amin himself. And it's Forrest Whittaker as Amin who is the true revelation: by turns charismatic, inspiring, vulnerable and ridiculous, he brings the dictator to stark life. So much so, in fact, that throughout the first part of the film: you find yourself working hard to remind yourself exactly who Amin was.
That, however, isn't a problem in the latter half of the film. As the regime begins to decay, the desperation of the situation asserts itself in a number of ways, most notably two incredibly visceral scenes which are guaranteed to stay with you for days afterwards. Additionally, Simon McBurney's slick English diplomat never ceases to remind you that, behind the terror, there are always people waiting to profit from the chaos.
If there are any criticisms that can be laid at the feet of the film, it can be argued that it neglects the atrocities delivered upon the Ugandan people to concentrate on the miseries of a few, largely white, characters. That notwithstanding, The Last King of Scotland still delivers a gut-punching two hours of celluloid, and is without a doubt the first must-see film of 2007.