Forest Whitaker earns every ounce of his Oscar® in this gripping political drama
The Last King of Scotland is the story of a fictional Scottish doctor named Nicholas Garrigan (played by dishy Scottish actor James McAvoy), who through happenstance becomes the court doctor and close advisor of real-life Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Like many in 1970s Uganda, Garrigan is at first beguiled by the charismatic "president for life," but the more her is drawn into Amin's inner circle, the quicker the blush comes off the rose. Garrigan begins to see the darker truth to the eccentric, megalomaniacal leader who was responsible for one of the bloodiest periods in Ugandan history.
Political dramas aren't usually my cup of tea, and without seeing the movie it is hard to understand how a piece of historical fiction about Uganda could be so compelling. But don't be fooled, this isn't just a moral cause movie for New Yorker-reading smartypants to brag to their friends that they saw to show how in-the-know they are. The Last King of Scotland deserves every good thing that has been said about it, and then some.
Based on the novel of the same name by Giles Foden, the movie is unquestionably gripping from the start. Actor Forest Whitaker (The Crying Game, Phenomenon) is renowned for being a quieter, gentler sort, but after seeing him inhabit the character of Idi Amin it is impossible to imagine anyone else could have done it better. And McAvoy (Starter for Ten, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) also proves he is a force in his own right, playing Nick Carraway to Whitaker's Gatsby, as it were. Garrigan's role is essentially the eyes through which we can see the complexity of appeal and atrocity that was Amin, and in less capable hands the role of Garrigan could have gone flat.
Also, don't miss an exceptional performance by the chronically overlooked Kerry Washington (The Dead Girl, Fantastic Four) as Kay, one of Amin's wives. This talented actress hopefully won't be flying below the radar much longer, because you would never know for a second that she didn't live in Africa her whole life from her performance in this film.
In short, I can't say enough about this movie. The film is beautifully shot, and the story is completely disturbing and absorbing. If you didn't see it in the theater, you should definitely do so now.
What's on the Disc:
The Last King of Scotland has a number of extras that give more insight into the real events that inspired the movie.
Commentary by director Kevin Macdonald
Deleted scenes (with and without commentary by Macdonald)
Capturing Idi Amin - featurette on the history of Amin's rule, including lots of footage of the real Amin
Forest Whitaker "Idi Amin" - behind the scenes featurette focusing on Whitaker's amazing performance
Fox Movie Channel Presents: Casting Session - The Last King of Scotland - a cool featurette on how Whitaker got the part