Saturday, June 30, 2007
I saw one of my infrequent movies yesterday, one I'd been curious about since reading reviews: The Last King of Scotland. Forest Whitaker gives a brilliant, gripping performance as the mad, maniacal, man-child dictator Idi Amin. One of the truly nasty effluvia thrown up by the confluence of brutal European colonialism and the rapid decay traditional cultures tossed into the contemporary world, Amin seized power in Uganda in 1971. He is believed to have murdered some 300,000 of his own people. In 1979, Tanzania, under the leadership of one of the African continent's true heros, Julius Nyerere, finally deposed Amin -- who lived out a comfortable exile in Saudi Arabia.
Amin/Whitaker's brilliant characterization is undermined by being set in counterpoint to a foolish, shallow, selfish twit of a young Scottish doctor who views Africa as a place to play, a stage set in which he can fuck any available female. "Dr. Garrigan" lost me in the opening scenes and never got my sympathy back, undermining the moral complexity of the movie. I guess we in Western audiences had to have a white guy to feel drawn into the horror of Amin's madness. Garrigan predictably fails a series of moral tests, but his fate remains the center of the movie.
Good review by someone who knows a lot more about films than I -- also good comments -- here.
The film only had a limited U.S. release but is readily available on DVD. Definitely worth seeing despite flaws; see it for Forest Whitaker and the Ugandan scenery. Maybe it is an age thing, but I always found those long haired 70s white men on the make repulsive.