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Overall Rating

Awesome: 27.08%
Worth A Look: 20.83%
Average: 4.17%
Pretty Bad47.92%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 18 user ratings

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Last King of Scotland, The
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by brianorndorf

"So... did Amin really eat people or what?"
4 stars

Idi Amin’s era of power comes frighteningly to life in “The Last King of Scotland.” This is a brutal movie, ending with a chaotic batch of violence that messes with the tempo of madness, but the production remains an engrossing piece of fiction with an incredible, rocket-powered lead performance from Forest Whitaker.

Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy, “Chronicles of Narnia”) is a bored, privileged Scottish man fresh from medical school and desperate for adventure. Traveling to Uganda to help the poor, Garrigan finds himself in the middle of the violent coup that put army general Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker) into power. Befriending Amin almost by accident, Garrigan is welcomed into the leader’s administration as his personal doctor. At first entertained and charmed by Amin’s fanatical demeanor, Garrigan soon learns the murderous, violent wrath of the general, and searches for a way out of Uganda before he loses his own life.

Idi Amin was a butcher and a monster, taking the lives of over 300,000 of his fellow Ugandans in his reign of terror during the 1970s, along with committing countless other atrocities. Yet, “The Last King of Scotland” is not a historical document. It observes the insanity of Amin through the eyes of a corrupted soul, leaving just enough space between fact and fiction to flesh out a fascinating motion picture.

“Scotland” reaches out to find that glint in Amin’s eye that made him such a beloved leader when his regime took power in 1971. The man was a childlike charmer, using his hefty political might and wild bits of personality to win over his country and the worldwide press, weirdly alternating between intimidation and adoration at the drop of a hat. “Scotland” finds prime dramatic real estate in just observing Amin, and to a much larger extent, Whitaker’s thundering, wild-eyed performance.

The imposing actor captures the hair-trigger patience of the leader, but also pays strict attention to the seductive side of Amin’s generosity and friendship. It’s a sweaty, bracing performance of a difficult man, and because the feature doesn’t keep Amin in the foreground (this is Garrigan’s story after all), it can get away with a blurred portrayal that is light on the finer details of Amin’s rule, but heavy on his chilling menace and pill-popping fury.

To successfully get inside the mind of Uganda, former documentary director Kevin Macdonald (“One Day in September,” “Touching the Void”) employs zooming cameras and grainy, splendidly colored cinematography to open up the screen and let the viewer see Amin and his blunt, controlling ways. “Scotland” can be crudely drawn, but uses its low-tech instruments to erect authenticity in the surroundings, not unlike a documentary. When it wants to be, “Scotland” feels immediate and suffocating, painting a stunning picture of Garrigan’s naiveté, and eventually his consuming desperation to escape the clutches of Amin.

In a bind to start mounting the evidence of Amin’s viciousness late in the film, “Scotland” takes a hard left turn toward gruesome violence in the third act. It’s truthful to Garrigan’s slowly stewing horror, but the film can’t quite manage the strain going from a psychological study to a full-blown horror movie.

Events become unspeakably ghoulish and borderline abstract late in the game, inciting a lack of interest in the story, at the same time, instilling unexpectedly newfound empathy in Garrigan’s fight to flee Uganda. Macdonald encourages composer Alex Heffes to charge hard with his score, pushing the anxiety to something more akin to an inflated Hitchcockian romp rather than an unsettling historical drama, leading the film to flame out.

Insanity ruled during Amin’s reign, and it clouds Macdonald’s detailed concentration, forcing “The Last King of Scotland” to detach from its effectiveness, but not its overall authority.

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originally posted: 09/30/06 06:45:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2006 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell tense true story well acted 4 stars
2/24/10 Jeff Wilder Whittaker delivers a commanding performance. 4 stars
5/16/09 R.W. Welch Hoked up history, but acting is first class. C+ 3 stars
3/29/09 Ry I film that presents no good or hope. 2 stars
11/24/08 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 2 stars
8/18/08 Vincent Great - not a dull moment 5 stars
8/06/08 Braniff Whitaker as Amin is fantastic! Don't miss the movie!! 5 stars
7/12/08 John Millheim wow, this makes you think how lucky we are to be american 5 stars
1/15/08 pablo eneas great cast, but very predictable; and the link with a true story it's basically a lie 2 stars
11/26/07 C.O.L. A brilliant piece of acting encapsulated in an ok film 4 stars
7/16/07 Hello Stranger great acting althou the plot doesn't really move forward till the last quarter of the movie 4 stars
6/25/07 fools♫gold If I give this 5 stars, then I've underrated "The Ninth Gate". 95% 5 stars
4/21/07 action movie fan whitaker is outstanding but nothing else is 2 stars
2/10/07 Karl The young doctor was so annoying, i couldnt concentrate enough on the plot. 2 stars
1/18/07 MP Bartley Whitaker is fierce but it's light on context and McAvoy is so annoying you want him to die. 3 stars
12/08/06 Ancaster Film Fest Best of TIFF for me. Whitaker great! If you liked McAvoy rent Rory O'Shea was Here. 5 stars
12/07/06 Ole Man Bourbon Forrest Whitaker's best performance, and he's had some great ones. Entertaining and freaky. 5 stars
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  27-Sep-2006 (R)
  DVD: 17-Apr-2007



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