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The Last King Of Scotland (2006)

September 5th, 2007 by Maxim · 1 Comment · 6,427 Views


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*** May contain spoilers ***

The plot: Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), Scott, graduated from medical school and randomly picked Uganda to practice his skills. He arrived in the poor, but beautiful country just in time for Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker) to take over the country from deposed president Milton Obote after a military coup. To Nicholas it appeared that population is in celebratory mood and believes that Amin is going to be great for the country. Although most of the people preferred their shamans, Nicholas’s hands are full in his clinic. Soon after he saw Amin at a political rally, he met him face to face when Amin was slightly injured in some sort of accident, probably his car colliding with a cow. Both men were genuinely interested in each other. Amin and Nicholas traded t-shirts. Next day Amin’s health minister, who was also Amin’s closest adviser, met Nicholas at his clinic and invited him to the capital and Amin offered him to be his personal physician. Nicholas initially turned down the offer, but after he had to treat Amin once again, and decided to stay in Presidential Hospital in Kampala and becomes member of Amin’s inner circle… and his pet: “His white monkey”, as they called him. After Nicholas saved Amin from attempted assassination, Amin became paranoid and violent. Horrible and dramatic events followed: elimination of Amin’s political opposition and repressions that killed estimated 80,000 to 500,000 Ugandans in 9 years of his rule.

The characters and events are so real and so complex, it takes the entire two hours of this movie to let them open up and draw them. Doctor Garrigan, a free-thinking liberal young man who “came to Uganda to play white man with the natives”, a womanizer too, became scared, and later even wanted to kill Amin. Everything, from political intrigues to basic human behavior is so interesting and captivating. The film shows many aspects of Idi Amin – as a president and politician, as a husband. We follow his transformation from people’s man to a maniacal tyrant. Amin’s ability to read people is amazing. Hours after he mutilated the body of his own third wife Kay (Kerry Washington) he is mostly back in his working mode trying to take advantage of hostages brought by a plane hijacked by Palestinians (1976 Entebbe incident). We see how he transforms from a media-darling to a cold-blooded killer in a moment – in our eyes and in the eyes of young doctor Garrigan. One minute he is torturing a man, next minute he is making a public appearance and speaks – a man of unseen strength and self-control. His mania of grandeur and paranoia are so real it’s just chilling. He is terrifying even when he doesn’t speak. And we can see this is Nicholas’s reaction. Also interesting Amin’s attitude toward the British: he served in the British Colonial Regiment, where he came to admire Scotts. In later years he dressed his soldiers in kilts. He also believed that British are jealous of him because he came to power without their help. He also liked to show off his sympathy for Scotts. When he came to power, both Ugandans and the British, Americans and Israelis have supported and welcomed him as Cold War was going on. But the British turned away from him when he expelled Israeli military advisers and turned to Libia and Soviet Union for support. After Britain severed relations with Uganda, Amin decorated himself “The Conqueror of the British Empire”. He disliked English but thoughtScottish are different. One of his favorite expressions was that Ugandans are the Scotts of Africa. His erratic behaviour and brutality of his oppressive regime feed rumors that he is a cannibal. The rumors of him mutilating his own wives were not substantiated, but they were spoken about in 1980 movie “The rise and fall of Idi Amin”. Speaking of fact vs fiction, Kay Amin reportedly died of from an attempted surgical abortion performed by her lover Dr. Mbalu Mukasa (who himself committed suicide). Her body was found dismembered – a major part of the movie was devoted to this incident and attributed to our young doctor.

Unlike “Hotel Rwanda” and “Constant Gardener”, this movie mostly ignores the political life and life of people during that time (a few explosions and gun shots here and there and corridors of hospital filled with people), and focuses instead on close circle of people: the doctor, Idi Amin and his family and a few loyalists – their words, their actions and behavior define who they are. Most of the movie is basically a thriller about our doctor, his relationship with Amin and his affair with Kay Amin.

Excellent film making by Kevin Macdonald of a script by Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock based on the novel by Giles Foden of the same name. The Macdonald also previously directed “One day in September”, an Oscar-winning documentary about terrorist incident on Olympics - same as in the “Munich” by Spielberg. Acting, story, scenery, light and photography are superb. Gripping and shocking with it’s realism. All actors without exception have been great.

There are some scenes with nudity, sex, a killing of a pregnant woman and torture. After I watched the film, I re-winded back to the scene where doctor discovers Key’s body – so terrible was the scene I did not believe my eyes the first time and wanted to see it again. The DVD also includes commentary by director Kevin Macdonald, interview with Forest Whitaker and deleted scenes, including a scene from 1946 where Amin had a boxing match – he was known to be a big sportsman – a heavyweight champion in boxing at his 198cm height, and a scene where Amin is carried in a chair by white businessmen. I also watched the movie again with director’s commentaries. It’s a long movie to watch twice in a row, but I thought I owed it to the director and to myself to try to get as much background information about this movie. I was so emotional, I wanted if not speak with the director, then at least to listen to what he has to say.

What’s the deal with moss and mosquitoes in this movie? Seems like director had idea to make it one of the themes but forgot about it through the movie. The closeups of mosquitoes serve no purpose.

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Rated 5/5 on Sep 5 2007
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Tags: Biographical · DVD · Drama · Epics/Historical · Movies · Thrillers/Suspense

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