DVD RE­VIEWS The Last King of Scot­land

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

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

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