THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND —-is a good film that could have been great had its focus not too often strayed off course as its so-so fiction mixes with historical craziness. In Uganda for a little adventure blended with charity work, a young Scottish doctor gets rather more of the former when he becomes personal physician and confidant of the country’s batshit-nuts ruler, Idi Amin. He also cuckolds the maniac, maybe not the best career move.
While the camera is on Forest Whitaker as Amin or lingering over production detail steeped in volatile, sweaty atmosphere the movie merits rapt attention. But a less engaging fictional ‘hero’, (James McEvoy) and an undeveloped subplot with Gillian Anderson (looking better than ever) undermine the overall success. Directed by Kevin MacDonald, the 2006 drama runs 121 minutes.
Those minutes occupied—filled to the rafters is more like it—by Whitaker’s towering performance make for a riveting treat, as he rips every ounce of nervous energy in his being out of his bone marrow and makes Amin’s insanity seem as lethally close as if he’s in the room, wide-eyed and laughing, pouring buckets of perspiration. Whitaker packed on fifty pounds of blubber to his already hulkish frame, and immersed himself in the part with more attention than he’d ever given to a role: learning Swahili, conversing with Amin’s brother, disappearing into the vast weirdness of the character. It paid off with a much-lauded Oscar win for Best Actor.
Shot on location in Uganda for a trim $6,000,000, it returned $48,363,000. With Kerry Washington, Simon McBurney and David Oyelowo. What can you say about a guy beyond his full title? “His Excellency President For Life, Field Marshal Al-Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, 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.”