The Last King of Scotland
Spring 2007 Edge series
Sunday, May 6, 2007 at 4:00pm
Directed by and Kevin Macdonald
Starring Simon McBurney, Kerry Washington, David Oyelowo, Gillian Anderson, Forest Whitaker, and James McAvoy
Rated 14A ·
Forest Whitaker (Bird) delivers a ferociously commanding performance as bloodthirsty Ugandan president Idi Amin in Kevin MacDonald’s The Last King of Scotland. Adapted from the novel by Giles Foden, the film recounts Amin’s horrific reign through the eyes of a semi-fictional character, Nick Garrigan (James McAvoy, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), a young doctor from Scotland who travels to Uganda hoping to do some good. Nick is more sanguine about new president Amin than is his counterpart Sarah Merrit (Gillian Armstrong, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story), whose experience causes her to be skeptical of Amin’s bombastic declarations. After an automobile accident, Nick is called in to treat the president’s wounds. His authoritative behavior impresses Amin, who charms Nick into becoming his personal physician. Nick embraces his newfound life of luxury, but he is unable to grasp the reality of the situation. When he does finally realize the atrocities Amin is inflicting upon his people (and is also capable of inflicting on Nick), the terrified doctor tries to make a frantic escape before it’s too late.
MacDonald, director of the acclaimed documentaries One Day in September and Touching the Void, makes a startlingly assured transition into fictional filmmaking with The Last King of Scotland. Working with cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (The Celebration) and editor Justine Wright, MacDonald brings 1970s Uganda to pulsating life, perfectly recreating that tumultuous era. But ultimately the film belongs to Whitaker: as he shifts from charming to maniacal in the space of a short, unexpected breath, he infuses Amin with startling humanity.