We never thought we’d say this—but Forest Whitaker (Phone Booth) scares the living hell out of us. We know what you’re thinking: “But isn’t this is the same guy who was all giggly in Good Morning, Vietnam and played the conscience-laden burglar that protected the kid in Panic Room? How menacing could this guy be?” Well, be prepared to be surprised by this gentle giant’s stunning Golden Globe-winning and Oscar nominated performance, folks.
The story goes: Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) heads to the Africa nation of Uganda after graduating from medical school. Arriving in the midst of a military coup that places the charismatic General Idi Amin (Whitaker) in power, Nicholas soon finds himself employed as the new ruler’s personal physician. Things are all honky dory for a while, with Amin passionately proclaiming himself as a man-of-the-people, but eventually the façade fades away, revealing the general’s true paranoid and megalomaniacal colors.
The plot, based on actual events and the novel by Giles Faden, is an intriguing one, pulling the audience into a disturbingly intimate look at Amin’s reign through Garrigan’s eyes. The direction by Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void), however, is a bit of a distraction, as he utilizes the whole shaky, documentary-like style a little too often, taking us out of the movie a number of times. McAvoy’s performance also isn’t without its flaws, as his portrayal comes off more whiny and naïve than sympathetic.
But, without a doubt, it’s Whitaker who completely steals the show. He effortlessly displays every facet of Amin perfectly—from the general’s natural charm right down to his complete insanity. He particularly shines when Amin starts to snap and becomes suspicious of everyone around him, making the character one scarily intimidating figure.
All in all, while we expected better from McAvoy and Macdonald, Whitaker more than made up for it by surprising us with his most remarkable performance to date.
You’ll Dig The Last King of Scotland If You…: enjoyed flicks like Downfall—or cried during movies like Hotel Rwanda and Cry Freedom. For those who like political films with a sensitive underlayer.