"If you're afraid of dying it shows you have a life worth living."
The Last King of Scotland is an intense, embracing thriller inspired by the true historical events of a horrible dictatorship that grappled Uganda throughout the 1970s. In the contemporary period of filmmaking it's an arduous undertaking to discover a film that truly stands out. With this film director Kevin Macdonald has outstandingly crafted a compelling drama abundant with tremendous power.
Nicholas Garrigan (McAvoy) is a flourishing young semi-idealistic Scottish doctor with an aspiration to escape from his conservative father. Nicholas moves to Uganda hoping to lend a hand and have some fun in the process. But he arrives in Uganda during a complicated time as the country is under the new leadership of President Ida Amin (Whitaker). Nicholas becomes inadvertently entangled with the president during a moment of crisis. Amin is highly impressed by Nicholas' attitude, medical skill, clever thinking and witty attitude: offering him a position as his personal physician and closest confidante. Although Nicholas is deeply honoured with the position he soon discovers the brutal savagery of Amin's regime. He had anticipated a wild escapade in a far-off country, but finds himself instead on a shocking ride into the darkest realm on earth: the human heart. Dismay and treachery ensue as Nicholas strives to right his wrongs and escape Uganda forever.
This mesmerising thriller goes exactly where you expect it will, but it's radiantly fuelled by the powerhouse performances from everyone in the cast. Forest Whitaker was correctly presented with an Oscar for his stunning portrayal. The actor carves an incredibly unforgettable portrait of a psychopathic dictator who ravaged his country. Whitaker's character progressively changes throughout the course of the film. At first he is friendly and forgiving. From Whitaker's charismatic portrayal an audience could never conceive this man turning sour. Sure enough into the second half his attitude turns bitter.
James McAvoy is a convincing young Scotsman. With every line he sounds like the genuine article (he was born in Glasgow). Like Whitaker's interpretation of President Amin, McAvoy's character also undergoes a substantial change throughout the movie. At first meek and willing to help, he is soon driven to gross determination as his single goal is to escape the country. The final few scenes in particular display a haunting performance by James McAvoy. Both central actors are absolutely unforgettable.
A drama in this vein relies on its steady performances as well as its visual images. The film is lavishly shot and showcases some absolutely gorgeous locations. Every minute of this film is as gripping as the minute preceding it. The storyline is particularly fascinating and never lets the viewer lose interest. Towards the film's conclusion the imagery becomes extremely heavy. This heightened sense of realism accurately displays the true atrocities that actually occurred. Due to the violence and grotesque images this is not a film for the faint of heart.
The Last King of Scotland is a brilliant drama elevated by its credible cast and concentrated directing. This is a nasty piece of history astoundingly told with a high level of realism. It's not entirely true to its source material of course (hence tagged as 'inspired by true events'); however the film is riveting and hard-hitting. An intricately created masterpiece that cannot be missed!