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The Last King of Scotland (DVD)

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I know; it sounds about as tempting as teabagging with a famished razorback – yeah I know, ouch! – but thankfully there’s still such a thing as a disingenuous title. And thank god, there’s – like the abovesaid swine- still film out there with some real teeth.


Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson

I know; it sounds about as tempting as teabagging with a famished razorback – yeah I know, ouch! – but thankfully there’s still such a thing as a disingenuous title. And thank god, there’s – like the abovesaid swine- still film out there with some real teeth.

Responsible for much of the film’s tight bite is actor Forest Whitaker who has finally emerged from the world of supporting roles – he’s played second fiddle in everything from “Good Morning Vietnam” (1987), “Species” (1995) and “Panic Room” (2002) – to captain his own ship.

But to this title. Like the recent “Little Children” and “Catch a Fire”, “The Last King of Scotland” is another of these films whose title doesn’t fit with its content. At the end of each of respective film, the title starts to make sense – it’s ‘smart’ ya see? – but many (especially those who haven’t got the Apple Quicktime trailers page book marked) will no doubt will be very surprised by what’s on offer here. “Rob Roy 2” this ain’t.

So what is this “King” movie, about? In the same vein as “Elizabeth”, perhaps? Nope. Far from it. In fact, it’s not even about a King of Scotland per say – but more so, the President of Uganda – a charming but malevolent beast who polluted the country with his sinister motives and self-conceited interests in the early 80s.

Whitaker plays real-life character Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, and James McAvoy (“The Chronicles of Narnia : The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe) plays the Scottish doctor (that’s where the ‘Scotland’ part comes in, ya see?) Nicholas Garrigan – he’s fictional – who develops a rather curious friendship with the tyrant. As all wrongdoers usually are, Amin is exposed as the animal he is – he’s basically a cold-blooded murderer – but Nicholas is so in deep with him (and one of his wives – ahem!), that getting out of the country with his life is going to be like flogging a DVD from K-Mart and not having the detector go off when you walk through the exit. Rather impossible, yeah.

This is such an intriguing movie – it’s a very compelling story, even though it’s partly illusory – and largely due to the performances. They are terrific. McAvoy’s believable and likable as the conflicted Nicholas, former “X-Files” star Gillian Anderson (haven’t seen her for a while have we?) has an undeveloped though interesting part as a fellow English doctor, and Kerry Washington excels as the false-hearted wife who begins an affair with the young GP. But the real star of this show is Forest Whitaker – in what it likely to be his magnum opus, and calling card, for the rest of his career.

Here, Whitaker immerses himself in the role of the mad dictator – you can see the insanity in his eyes; and when he speaks you listen – and unlike many star performances in films like this, he makes you ‘forget’ you’re watching an actor and instead, helps believe you’re watching vintage video of the President himself. It’s the best performance of his career – and one of the best turns you’re likely to see in a movie this year. In another actor’s hands the performance mightn’t have been as effective – but Whitaker is able to display a varied range of emotions that not only resonates with the audience, but also rings true.

DVD extras include several interesting featurettes, an insightful commentary by the director and quite a few deleted scenes.

Rating :
Reviewer : Clint Morris

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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