The Last King of Scotland is a pretty exciting tale to file under “innocents abroad”. What is this hell hole I’ve wandered into, and how do I get out? Except that for the most part, the hell hole is really rather attractive, at least to the hero, who doesn’t start to wonder about getting out until very, very late in the day. Young idealistic Scottish doctor goes to Uganda on a whim to do good and gets elevated to Idi Amin’s personal physician and trusted adviser, doing a lot of bad along the way. I haven’t read the book, and the movie is not the book (nor does it need to be) but one thing struck me; there is almost no sense of why Idi Amin is as he is. Forest Whitaker gives an absolutely wonderful performance, and captures the charm, the violent changes in direction, the buffoonery and the grimness. But why was Amin like that? Maybe -- to get a bit meta -- that’s the point. We don’t know what created the character any more than the others do, and that makes interpreting his acts all but impossible. For me, the film actually lacked suspense; you knew that Dr Garrigan would get away to write the book on which the film was based, and that Amin would eventually be persuaded to retire to Saudi Arabia. And it was very gory; just how necessary was that? Overall, very satisfying, but in a detached kind of way. Right at the end clips of the real Amin, his paranoid eyes swivelling madly here and there, reminded me that when I were a lad, Ugandan affairs were not that much of a joke.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5