Friday, February 18, 2011

The Last King of Scotland

The Last King of Scotland; Drama, UK, 2006; D: Kevin Macdonald, S: James McAvoy, Forest Whitaker, Kerry Washington, Simon Mcburney, Gillian Anderson

In '71, the young and adventurous doctor Nicholas decides to leave Scotland and go to Uganda. There he witnesses a coup d'etat which tumbles president Obote and places general Idi Amin as the new head of state. After nursing his wound, Nicholas is chosen by Amin to be his personal doctor. However, he slowly realizes that Amin's rule is getting increasingly aggressive and intolerable. After Nicholas slept with one of Amin's many wives, Kay, she is found dead. Nicholas is tortured, but is able to board a plane at Entebbe, hijacked by Palestinian extremists, and fly out of the country.

Which dictator wouldn't make for an interesting biopic, at least formally? Idi Amin, who killed at least 80,000 people during his rule, was one of the strangest and most eccentric iron fist rulers of the 20th century, yet Kevin Macdonald's "The Last King of Scotland" covers him both superficially and sparsely, stubbornly refusing to go deeper into the subject matter and Ugandan history during that era, while at the same time wasting its time on fabricated dangerous situations in which Dr. Nicholas finds himself in, who never even existed. Drawing attention away from Amin's real victims to put the spotlight on an imaginary victim, a character who was made up just for the film, really is an odd choice, yet all in all, "King" is a interesting, fluent and adequately crafted film, which works best in the first half, before it starts to stale. It would have helped if it wasn't so clumsy at times, yet overall it is a good history lesson. Forest Whitaker won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for his performance as the dictator in question, since he delivered a powerful performance, though a one that has too much obvious elements of "showing off" and the advantage of a 'look-a-like celebrity', while James McAvoy's performance is almost better due to its understated and true nature.


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