Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"The Last King Of Scotland": A Portrait of Idi Amin

I was terribly excited when I heard that Forest Whitaker would be playing Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. After a quick google search I also discovered that the wonderful Kerry Washington plays Kay Amin, Idi Amin's second wife. The former is stunning. To make matters worse (for other actresses, that is) the luster of Ms. Washington's pulchritude is futher magnified by her exceptional acting ability. Place her alongside a Forest Whitaker, who is a phenomenal actor in his own right, and I think you have a combination that is sure to keep viewers entertained. The following is a review from the NYTimes on the movie which opens in theatres today:

An Innocent
Abroad, Seduced by a Madman

By MANOHLA DARGIS

Strange to think that the flamboyantly lethal nut job Idi Amin died in Saudi Arabia just three years ago. About 80 at the time, he had fled Uganda in 1979 after murdering upwards of 300,000 souls. Larger than life physically and metaphorically, he was a former heavyweight boxing champion with a brilliant sense of leadership as a performance: as a dictator, his methods were brutally antediluvian, but his public relations cunning was consummately 20th century. Smiling into cameras, he dropped provocations like bombs: “I don’t like human flesh. It’s too salty for me.”

The queasily enjoyable new fiction film “The Last King of Scotland,” based on the novel by Giles Foden and directed by Kevin Macdonald, creates a portrait of this famous Ugandan dictator from inside the palace walls. Furiously paced, with excellent performances by Forest Whitaker as Amin and James McAvoy as the foolish Scotsman who becomes the leader’s personal physician, the film has texture, if not depth and enough intelligence to almost persuade you that it actually has something of note to say. It would make a terrific double bill with Barbet Schroeder’s mesmerizing 1974 documentary, “General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait,” of which Mr. Macdonald has obviously made a close and fruitful study.

As it also happens, “The Last King of Scotland” would make an even better double bill with Stephen Frears’s forthcoming film “The Queen,” a sly peek at the current British monarch in the wake of the death of Princess Diana. (Amin once wrote milady: “Dear Liz, if you want to know a real man, come to Kampala.”) Amin was an amateur merchant of death compared with the historic British monarchy, but he absorbed the lessons of its colonial tyranny fatally well.

“The Last King of Scotland” makes the case that Amin was rational enough to understand his country’s tangled relationship with British imperialism and to inject that sociopolitical understanding into words. If this lecture feels a little too neat and contrived, well, that’s entertainment.

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