Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Last King of Scotland: Grade B


The Last King of Scotland (2006)

Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington. Director Kevin MacDonald.

Whitaker is Idi Amin, the genocidal dictator of Uganda in the 1970’s. McAvoy is a young Scot doctor (too young, it seems to me) who becomes his personal physician. Showing their relationship reveals Amin as a paranoid psychopath and the Doc, who seems to have no common sense, realizes too late he is in over his head. Whitaker delivers an amazing performance but there is little historical context for it. Not all of us are clear on where Uganda even is, let alone the circumstances that motivated Amin's actions thirty years ago. There are fleeting moments suggesting Amin was legitimately panicked and confused, maybe not just a degenerate nutjob. Those fascinating suggestions are tribute to Whitaker’s skill. I wished for more context so we could understand what the characters were thinking. Many deleted scenes provided connective tissue and they should have been left in, cutting instead dancing and singing in colorful native costumes. Sixty seconds of that would have been more than plenty. Kerry Washington, who was fabulous in “Ray,” gives another standout performance.

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