The Last King of Scotland

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/10/2006

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 125 mins

Impressively directed, powerful and frequently horrifying drama featuring an Oscar-worthy performance by Forest Whitaker.

What's it all about?
Based on the novel by Giles Foden, The Last King of Scotland is set in the 1970s and stars James McAvoy as recently graduated doctor Nicholas Garrigan, who comes to work in Uganda and winds up as the personal physician to Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker).

At first, the politically naive Garrigan is charmed by Amin, seduced by his generosity and popularity. However, his attraction to Amin's wife Kay (Kerry Washington) puts his life in grave danger and by the time he opens his eyes to the realities of Amin's brutal regime, it may be too late.

The Good
Documentary director Kevin McDonald (One Day In September) makes an impressive debut with his first fictional feature, aided by colourful camerawork from Anthony Dod Mantle and a superb, evocative soundtrack. In addition, he uses sound to brilliant and frequently disturbing effect, such as in a key sequence involving a wounded cow.

The script is superb, with some extremely amusing moments (Amin talking of his love for Scotland) that gradually give way to scenes of genuine horror as the reality of his situation dawns on Garrigan.

The Great
McAvoy is well cast as the naive but well-intentioned doctor, whose desires threaten to prove his undoing. There's also strong support from Gillian Anderson (whose character sadly disappears about 40 minutes in), Kerry Washington and Simon McBurnley as a creepy British diplomat.

The stand-out, however, is Forest Whitaker, who gives a terrific, multi-layered performance as Amin, capturing the man's charisma and making it abundantly clear why Garrigan would be drawn to him, before revealing an unpredictable, paranoid and almost child-like side that is utterly terrifying.

Worth seeing?
In short, this is a powerful, engaging and ultimately terrifying drama. It is unquestionably worth seeing and if Whitaker doesn't get an Oscar nomination there is officially no justice.

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Content updated: 18/06/2019 13:55

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