The Last King of Scotland

A riveting political thriller.

Film Review by Paul Greenwood | 11 Jan 2007
Film title: The Last King of Scotland
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Starring: Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson
Release date: 12 Jan
Certificate: 15
Some years after seizing control of Uganda in a 1971 military coup, General Idi Amin declared himself, amongst other titles (Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular being a favourite) King of Scotland, such was his fascination with our nation. The Last King of Scotland begins in the early days of his reign, before he revealed his true nature to the world, and concentrates on his relationship with a young Scottish doctor (McAvoy) who arrives in the country idealistic and eager for adventure. Thanks to Amin's Scotiaphile ways he becomes his personal physician and witness to his increasing tyranny.

Though having some basis in fact (Amin obviously was a genocidal bampot and he did have a Scottish doctor), The Last King of Scotland is actually adapted from a novel and therefore benefits from the trappings of a highly dramatised adventure, rather than the biopic tinged travelogue it starts out as. High praise should be extended to director Macdonald in his first non-documentary feature for expertly molding it into a riveting political thriller, paced and edited with all the charge and vibrancy of Goodfellas. Forest Whitaker will most probably win the Best Actor Oscar in February for his portrayal of Amin, and deservedly so. It's a remarkable performance, an astonishing display of power and presence that makes a monstrous and clearly insane man initially likeable then at turns terrifying and childlike. But it's McAvoy's film, make no mistake about that. The diminutive Glaswegian is in every scene and he stands up to Amin (and Whitaker) at every turn, managing not to be blown off the screen by the volcanic force of either. [Paul Greenwood]