The Last King of Scotland (2006)

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Published on: 2007.07.02

IMDb: The Last King of Scotland
Wikipedia: The Last King of Scotland
Rating: R
(strong violence and gruesome images, sexual content and language)
Length: 123 minutes (2:03)
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Genre: Drama / History / Thriller
My Rating: 9 (of 10)
Family Friendly: Nope (nor is it for squeamish adults).

My reasons for seeing this film were my admiration for Forest Whitaker‘s previous work, and my recent kick of seeing modern history genre films, especially those dealing with South America, Africa, and Asia, subjects that weren’t much covered in my history classes in school.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Director Kevin Macdonald is mostly known for making documentaries, and it showed in this movie. The Last King of Scotland, inspired by real people and events, included fictional characters and events, but had the feel of a biographical film and a historical reenactment of real events.

Spectacular camera work, perfect background music, beautiful scenery, and superb acting all combined to make this movie a joy to watch.

It also kept me on the edge of my seat, in constant tension.

The movie stars Whitaker in his most brilliant role to date, as General Idi Amin Dada, who took power in Uganda during a 1971 military coup, deposing Milton Obote. Amin ruled until 1979.

A larger than life character, brutal in his rule, Amin’s erratic personality was perfectly portrayed by Whitaker, who won the Best Actor Academy Award, a Golden Globe award, and an award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for this role.

Whitaker’s impressive body of work includes popular, wonderful and heart-felt films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Color of Money, Platoon, Good Morning Vietnam, The Crying Game, Blown Away, Species, Light it Up, Battlefield Earth, and quite a few hit TV series.

The Last King of Scotland makes all of Whitaker’s previous roles look like practice, as he fully immersed himself in the Amin character. If you watch real-life footage of Amin next to footage of Whitaker in character, you can believe that it’s the same person.

However, the story of the film is told from the perspective of giddy Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan, a fictional character portrayed by James McAvoy. Garrigan comes to Uganda to use his medical talents to help people, feeling a little stifled in his father’s business back home.

Quickly, he finds himself propelled into the role of Amin’s personal physician, where he has front row seats to all of Amin’s works as the head of state.

The movie also stars Gillian Anderson as Sarah Merrit, the sultry Kerry Washington as one of Amin’s wives (with whom Garrigan falls in love), and Simon McBurney as Nigel Stone, a British agent.

Even if you’re a little squeamish and have to close your eyes for a couple of scenes, this movie is brilliantly carried out, and as an authentic historical feel. It’s the kind of film that makes you want to read the history of a region.

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