Last King of Scotland
I dare you not to give me an Academy Award!

Golden Mug

WINNER: Actor (Forrest Whitaker), Adapted Screenplay (Jeremy Brock & Peter Morgan-screenplay, Giles Foden-novel)
NOMINEE: Picture, Director (Kevin Macdonald), Actor (James McAvoy)

Theatrical Release Date: 09/27/2006
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Cast: Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy

Based on Idi Amin’s time as Uganda’s dictator (as related by his personal physician), “The Last King of Scotland” is an attempt to portray not only the madness that led to Amin killing 300,000 of his own countrymen, but the charm and good he attempted to do as well.

According to interviews with star Forest Whitaker and director Kevin Macdonald, the Ugandan people have made peace with Amin’s regime. Yes, there was brutality but there was also a sense that Amin was responsible for putting Uganda on the world map and standing up to the British Empire. For that, they are grateful.

“The Last King of Scotland” is not for the faint of heart. Making a film about a dictator who maimed and killed hundreds of thousands of people can’t be made without a few drops of blood. Yet, that is also what makes the film so powerful.

The visceral nature of Uganda in the 1970s is on display. The story is compelling because it is based on real events. That may not be your cup of tea but the film makes sure not to be so myopic.

The film is centrally focused on Nicholas Garrigan – the personal physician of Amin, played gorgeously by James McAvoy. His portrayal of the Scottish doctor turned trusted advisor reminds me of Ewan McGregor in “Trainspotting”. You just know this actor will go places.

Perhaps more importantly, without his strong performance, Whitaker’s presence would not have been so moving.

And remember how I called for Philip Seymour Hoffman to receive an Academy Award for his performance in last year’s “Capote”? Well, mark your ballot sheets now. Expect Whitaker to be taking home his own golden statue this February 25.

His performance as Amin is flawless. He seemingly mastered the accent and the ability to convey the dictator’s legendary paranoia. Throughout the film, Whitaker’s Amin goes from paranoid to elated in the blink of an eye and all with such believability that you can’t help but get lost in the character.

The rest of the cast does a nice job as well, including Kerry Washington and Gillian Anderson. Using the real locations and local extras add an incalculable amount to the look and feel of the film.

The cinematography is well handled, providing a grittier, muted look that suits the time period. The political motivations of the British lurking at the surface are handled well and don’t distract from the compelling relationship between Amin and Garrigan.

Really, there’s not much to knock in this film, aside perhaps from some slowness near the end. I again implore people to find this film and see it for themselves. It isn’t often enough that the movie industry releases films of such dignity and quality.

“The Last King of Scotland” is a phenomenal film and should not be missed. I’m giving it a 5 out of 5. It is near perfect and I hope to see this up for major award consideration.