Movies / Movie Reviews

The Last King Of Scotland

By Al Kratina
November 7, 2006 - 20:43

Contrary to popular belief, people do not taste very good. They're all stringy, and different colors don't taste anything like their corresponding Jelly Beans. So, I checked out The Last King Of Scotland, which takes place during the brutal, allegedly cannibalistic reign of Idi Amin’s Ugandan regime, in the hopes of picking up some basting tips, or a nice marinade to get all the gaminess out of the flank meat. Ever since Cannibal Holocaust, it's been hard to find a really good recipe that doesn't involve gluten, which I'm allergic to. Sadly, this story of Idi Amin's Scottish doctor focuses more on a subtle indictment of white colonial attitudes than how to properly boil a heart. Disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. It's like one of those spy films with all the good bits cut out so you can't learn how to kill a man with a credit card and a straw.

Nevertheless, despite the missed opportunities, The Last King Of Scotland manages to be a good film. James McAvoy plays Nicholas Garrigan, a recent med school graduate who goes to Uganda in search of adventure. Instead, he finds a lot of sick kids and Scully from The X-Files, which is about as adventurous as filing your taxes without an accountant. A chance encounter with infamous dictator/cannibal Idi Amin leads to him taking a job as Amin's personal physician, where he turns a blind eye to the tragedies and atrocities surrounding him, absorbed in his own life and his cultural tourism. The interesting part of the film is that as he gradually becomes aware of the goings on, so do we. The viewer is not privileged to information the character isn't, and our world expands with his. And it expands to included dismembered female corpses rather quickly.

McAvoy’s performance is a strong approximation of Ewan McGregor, but it's Forest Whitaker as Amin who really stands out in the film. His mix of charisma and clammy-faced insanity is simultaneously alluring and horrifying, like a serial killer that smells like donuts. The film is shot in that hand-held, pseudo-documentary style that seems par for the course for any film set in the third world. Director Kevin Macdonald is comfortable with the realistic style, and coaxes strong performances from his cast. The script mirrors the realism of the mise-en-scene, presenting no heroes in the film, only characters we can believe in and whose behavior we can relate to. And while relating to a dismembered female corpse may be difficult, here it's handled as well as it ever has been before.

Rating: 8 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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