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Overall Rating
3.27

Awesome: 27.08%
Worth A Look: 20.83%
Just Average: 4.17%
Pretty Crappy47.92%
Sucks: 0%

5 reviews, 18 user ratings


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Last King of Scotland, The
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by MP Bartley

"It's a white man's world."
2 stars

Hollywood of late has suddenly discovered a conscience regarding Africa and the various despotic regimes and civil wars that rage there. The problem is, as The Last King of Scotland so aptly demonstrates, it just can't depict these problems without putting a white man at the centre of them.

The white man in this case is Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), a newly qualified doctor in the 1970s, who decides on a whim to take his medical expertise to Uganda and try to help amongst the impoverished conditions. While there he comes across a car crash and aids one of the injured party - however, it is not just anyone Nicholas has stumbled across, it is Uganda's leader Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), whom Nicholas heals. Amin is so impressed by Nicholas' medical skills, strength under pressure and Scottish heritage that he is quickly hired as his personal physician. At first this brings riches and prestige to Nicholas, but he quickly learns that Amin's fierce reputation is well earned and that Uganda is as dangerous a place for a Scotsman as it is for a native if they get on the wrong side of Amin.

From Hotel Rwanda to Blood Diamond, Africa has suddenly had its cause championed by the great and the good of Hollywood, and while the reliance of a white man in these stories to act as the first world's eyes and ears is a mite patronising, it is not an automatic flaw in the story (Fernando Meirelles' excellent The Constant Gardener put pasty Ralph Fiennes at the centre of it's story, but cleverly played on his total ignorance of the situation in Africa), but the context and situation of the time needs to be remembered and made paramount.

It doesn't help when the protagonist of the story is one of the most irritating and selfish characters to have recently been depicted as the sympathetic core of the story, as Garrigan is here. Within days of arriving at Uganda, he is taken in by a friendly local doctor and he repays this favour by trying to sleep with his wife (Gillian Anderson). This act of selfishness is repeated once he is under the wing of Amin, with Nicholas banging and grinding his way through the Amin household. Never mind the fact that Amin is a murderous dictator, Nicholas has got some lovin' to do! Again, this is not a flawed act in itself, if Nicholas was remotely sympathetic or got his just desserts. Instead however, he remains unapologetically stupid and selfish throughout the film, railing against those who (justifiably) warn him about his behaviour. When several black characters later meet their gruesome deaths for trying to extricate Nicholas from the situation all of his own making, it leaves a rather distasteful aftertaste in the mouth - never mind the poor black people that died, at least they died for the noble cause of getting the white man (who is as responsible for their deaths as Amin is) away to safety. It's actually amusing that when Nicholas does get his comeuppance (in a scene seemingly stolen from the Saw series), we're cheering it on, not willing him to escape. It's indicative of the film's lack of context, that towards the end when Nicholas is reminded by a British official that thousands of Ugandan's have died under Amin's regime, it's as much a surprise for us as it is for Nicholas. Why are we watching the horny adventures of a doctor when thousands are people are suffering terribly? Where is their story? It's an astonishing misjudgement by director Kevin Macdonald, who with a background in documentaries, should have had a better idea of where the real story is in Uganda and brings little tension to either Nicholas' predicament or the international situation in general.

What this also does is reduce Idi Amin to a supporting role in his own story. In another scene towards the end Amin demands to know why the international media is portraying him as a man who eats his enemies. Why indeed - where does this come from (it's a plot contrivance that relies too much on audience knowledge of the real Amin)? How did Amin come to power and why does he have so many enemies? At the very end, Macdonald intergrates documentary footage of the real Amin together with facts and figures of how many people died under his regime, but there's a total lack of connection between this and everything we've seen previously. Amin as a person and as a dictator is never explored, leaving him as dimensional as a particularly memorable Bond villain. Whitaker's overrated performance does not help, being intense but moving only between loud and angry, quiet and angry and unpredictably jovial. He has no help with a seriously underdeveloped script, but doesn't bring enough shading himself, leaving Amin rooted as a two dimensional bad guy.

A film promising to examine a murderous regime such as The Last King of Scotland does, can do nothing but fail if it does not root the characters in the proper context which it doesn't here. It comes across not as genuine piece of history but more of a gap year gone horribly wrong which is pretty bad for Nicholas, but infinitely worse for the Ugandans who not only suffer horribly but are unforgiveably ignored in their own story.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15083&reviewer=293
originally posted: 09/26/07 04:12:46
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2006 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell tense true story well acted 4 stars
2/23/10 Jeff Wilder Whittaker delivers a commanding performance. 4 stars
5/15/09 R.W. Welch Hoked up history, but acting is first class. C+ 3 stars
3/28/09 Ry I film that presents no good or hope. 2 stars
11/23/08 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 2 stars
8/17/08 Vincent Great - not a dull moment 5 stars
8/05/08 Braniff Whitaker as Amin is fantastic! Don't miss the movie!! 5 stars
7/12/08 John Millheim wow, this makes you think how lucky we are to be american 5 stars
1/14/08 pablo eneas great cast, but very predictable; and the link with a true story it's basically a lie 2 stars
11/25/07 C.O.L. A brilliant piece of acting encapsulated in an ok film 4 stars
7/15/07 Hello Stranger great acting althou the plot doesn't really move forward till the last quarter of the movie 4 stars
6/25/07 fools♫gold If I give this 5 stars, then I've underrated "The Ninth Gate". 95% 5 stars
4/20/07 action movie fan whitaker is outstanding but nothing else is 2 stars
2/10/07 Karl The young doctor was so annoying, i couldnt concentrate enough on the plot. 2 stars
1/18/07 MP Bartley Whitaker is fierce but it's light on context and McAvoy is so annoying you want him to die. 3 stars
12/07/06 Ancaster Film Fest Best of TIFF for me. Whitaker great! If you liked McAvoy rent Rory O'Shea was Here. 5 stars
12/06/06 Ole Man Bourbon Forrest Whitaker's best performance, and he's had some great ones. Entertaining and freaky. 5 stars
10/11/06 AMINA EXCELLENT MOVIE FORREST WHITTAKER WAS GREAT AND SO WAS JAMES MCAVOY. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  27-Sep-2006 (R)
  DVD: 17-Apr-2007

UK
  18-Oct-2006

Australia
  01-Feb-2007



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