DVD REVIEWS The Last King of Scotland
KEVIN Macdonald’s fictionalised account of Idi Amin’s murderous dictatorship requires us to suspend our belief. We know Amin will be responsible for the deaths of 300,000 of his fellow Ugandans, but the characters in this film, which opens as he seizes power in 1971, do not. This is especially true of Nicholas Garrigan ( James McAvoy), an idealistic, naive young doctor who leaves Scotland to do good in Africa but ends up becoming Amin’s personal physician and political adviser. Garrigan is won over by Amin’s charm, wonderfully captured by Forest Whitaker in a deservedly Oscar- winning performance. He plays Amin the same way James Gandolfini plays Tony Soprano — brutish but intelligent, paranoid but insightful, calm but close to explosive violence — and, similar to Gandolfini, he dominates the screen. With our belief duly suspended we see how evil thrives with the barest encouragement. Garrigan takes longer than most to realise his employer is over- sensitive to criticism. We end up liking the repulsive British envoy ( Simon McBurney), who sees what is coming a lot sooner. The title refers to Amin’s love of all things Scottish. Macdonald, a Scot, won an Oscar for his 1999 documentary about the Munich Olympics massacre, One Day in September. Not surprisingly, then, he does the historical scenes well, but it’s the quieter moments, such as when Garrigan bandages Amin’s hand early in the story, that reward close watching.
Stephen Romei EXTRAS: Director’s commentary; deleted scenes; trailer; casting session; featurettes on Amin and Whitaker
( MA15+) 20th Century Fox ( feature runs 121 minutes) $ 29.95