The Last King Of Scotland (15)



Drama (2006)
123mins UK

Starring: Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Gillian Anderson, Kerry Washington
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Writer(s): Peter Morgan, Jeremy Brock
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

When Idi Amin swept to power in 1971, the people of Uganda looked forward to the dawn of a new prosperous, self-sufficient nation. Alas, their new leader ruled with an iron fist, reportedly slaughtering more than 300,000 of his people. Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan witnesses the inexorable rise of Amin first-hand when he is employed as the president's personal physician. As the body count rises, Garrigan fears for his own life and prepares to flee the country to escape Amin and his henchmen.

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Won Best Actor (Forest Whitaker) at The 79th Academy Awards® (25th February 2007)

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Read Nicholas Carter's Review
Read Sophie Abell's Review

LondonNet Film Review by Nicholas Carter
The Last King of Scotland

The Last King of Scotland is, in all honestly, about the former President of Uganda, Idi Amin. First and foremost, however, it is a deeply unsettling coming-of-age film centred around Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy). Garrigan is a young doctor who blindly stabs his finger at a spinning globe. His first try lands dead-centre on Canada, something not quite as exotic as he was hoping. Number two puts him on the road to a remote hospital in deep Africa...

Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. Fox UK FilmArriving just after the charismatic Amin's rise to power in 1971, Garrigan is hauled away from the hospital to help the injured general after a car accident nearby. An audacious, risky gamble on Garrigan's part lands him in Amin's good graces. As the movie is quick to show, Amin had already built a strange, darkly idyllic palace for himself. In this world both president and doctor stay, for the most part, far from the shaky industrialization and uneasy partnership with the West that was running Uganda ragged.

Garrigan is young and brash, too quickly caught up in the world Amin has created. Growing fears about Amin's sanity, political assassinations and an ill-advised affair all come together in a tumultuous, difficult-to-watch denouement.

Many questions arise at the end of Last King of Scotland, but perhaps the most pressing is: Where did Forest Whitaker go for all these years? Is it all to blame of bad choices on his part? It's not like showing up in Species did wonders for his credibility, but the guy is a marvel to watch. Think back to his melancholy in the Crying Game, or to his thug/poet in Ghost Dog. How did casting agents forget about him? Last King of Scotland brings all the memories of his quality work flooding back. He embodies Amin to a frightening extent; his accent is perfect and his massive, eyes-going-helter-skelter presence is what drives the film's conflict between the two former friends. Whitaker brings to life a man whose force of will united a country, a man too large and too scattered to ever truly know or trust.

Amin was, without question, an absurd figure. The title of the film comes from a real-life obsession of Amin's with Scotland, which went so far as to name one of his children Mackenzie. His start in the King's African Rifles gave rise to a split life, half strongly nationalistic and half in love with race cars, Disney cartoons and other signs of Western decadence. Long before criticism began to emerge in the UK, a Foreign Office memo called him "a splendid type and good football player". In Last King of Scotland, Amin's garrulous sense of humour is on full display: during a beach party, Amin dresses as a cowboy and lassoes his finance minister to show an end to decadent spending. That he later has the minister killed is almost an afterthought. This joviality makes his mad-dog growls of, "A man who shows fear, he is weak and a slave" all the more insidious and disconcerting.

McAvoy has been making waves of late for good reason. He has a charming, but not overly pretty, look about him. In another film, without such an exceptional actor outshining him, McAvoy could have walked away with awards. Here, through no fault of his own, it seems he's running catch-up. No such character as Garrigan exists as far as history books go, but McAvoy brings a nicely imperfect everyman character into the story. It's through his eyes that the story is told, and the climactic disillusionment that comes at the end is made affecting by his efforts alone.

Last King of Scotland is the first great film of 2007. Be prepared for a trip through some of the darkest history Africa has to offer, but don't let it scare you away.

- Nicholas Carter

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LondonNet Film Review by Sophie Abell
The Last King of Scotland

Forest Whitaker is the red-hot favourite to win this year's Academy Award as Best Actor In A Leading Role for his searing portrayal of Idi Amin in Kevin Macdonald's thriller, based on the novel by Giles Foden...

Forest Whitaker, Gillian Anderson and James McAvoy in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND. Fox UK FilmIt's a virtuoso performance of intensity and fury, leavened with humour, giving us an insight into a so-called man of the people who managed to charm the world's media while his country witnessed unspeakable atrocities.

When Amin swept to power in 1971 in a coup against the corrupt Milton Obote, the people of Uganda looked forward to the dawning of a prosperous new age. Their newly anointed leader - a former soldier and boxer with boundless drive and enthusiasm - spoke passionately about the creation of a self-sufficient, independent state, which would become the pride of Africa.

Foreign officials, not least the British Foreign Office, heralded Amin's rise to power with words of optimism and praise. But once Amin took control of Uganda, the horrific truth slowly became clear as the dictator used violence and intimidation indiscriminately to cling onto power, reportedly slaughtering more than 300,000 of his people.

The Last King Of Scotland experiences the rise of Amin through the eyes of a fictitious doctor, Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), who becomes the president's personal physician and is welcomed with open arms into the inner circle of the charismatic leader. Abandoning his post at a mission clinic run by Dr Merrit (Adam Kotz) and his wife Sarah (Gillian Anderson), Nicholas moves to Kampala to attend to Amin and to lead the staff of the capital's impressive new hospital.

The doctor also becomes a prime target for slippery British Foreign Service official Stone (Simon McBurney), who desperately needs inside information on the new leader. Nicholas is quickly seduced by his host's wealth and power, and is even more taken with Kay (Kerry Washington), one of Amin's pretty, young wives, who has been ostracized because her son suffers from epilepsy. An illicit affair between Nicholas and Kay finally reveals the brutal, unforgiving man behind Amin's media facade.

As the body count rises and the earth is stained with the blood of innocents, the doctor fears for his own life in a country teetering on the brink of anarchy and he prepares to flee the country to escape Amin and his vicious henchmen.

The Last King Of Scotland begins rather gently but soon gathers dramatic momentum and the final 20 minutes are a tour de force demonstration in edge of seat suspense, replete with scenes of sickening violence.

Whitaker's verbal fireworks blow everyone else off screen and McAvoy struggles to make an impact as the good man in Africa, who pays a terrible price for his disloyalty. Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock's screenplay provides Washington and Anderson with little emotional meat to sink their teeth into.

The film contrasts the natural beauty of the country with the horrific consequences of Amin's reign of terror. Macdonald shoots on location in Uganda, using many authentic locations including the Parliament building, the Mulago Hospital and Entebbe Airport where the climactic hostage crisis unfolds.

- Sophie Abell

Trailer

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Featurette

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Clip 1: Together we will make this country better

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Clip 2: Nicholas, I have to go

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Clip 3: Show them what kind of man you are

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Clip 4: Press conference

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