The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Reviewed on 2007 May 2
Forest Whitaker was incredible in this. He’s been a lot of things in a lot of movies but this is the first time he gave me the roaring creeps.
Based on the book of the same title, the movie follows Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), a naive young Scot who picks Uganda as the place to exercise his new medical degree. The way in which he picks his destination tells us a lot about the character. He immerses himself in a local hospital and seems content enough to work there, until he’s called upon to treat Idi Amin (Whitaker). Amin charms Garrigan into becoming his personal physician, and the playful side Amin chooses to reveal (at that moment) coupled with lots of potential money easily pulls Garrigan away from the hospital. (To be fair, Amin helps sway the Scot by telling him he’ll be helping all of Uganda by accepting the offer.) As the movie unfolds, Garrigan realizes how unstable and dangerous Amin is, and what a mistake he made trusting the lunatic.
Though it’s heavily fictionalized, the story is spun around actual events and that makes it even more gripping, and horrifying. Whitaker channels Amin, layering enough charm over the menace to show how people could have been taken in by the dictator early in his career. Garrigan is the perfect naive narrator, amoral (and in one key instance, really dumb — you’ll know it, trust me) but not really an evil man. He just refuses to see what Amin really is, and it’s effective here. If the acting and basic story isn’t enough, director Kevin Macdonald does a good job of sucker-punching the audience throughout the movie, and the soundtrack is good too.
Three chocolate morsels.