2007 Verve Awards

2006 Verve Awards

Best Arts and Culture Blog 2005 Queer Day Awards

Best Gay Blog Nominee 2004 Weblog Awards

Best Arts and Culture Blog Nominee

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


ModFab On...The Last King of Scotland

Starring: James McAvoy, Forest Whitaker, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, and Simon McBurney
Written by Kevin MacDonald
Directed by Jeremy Brock, Giles Foden, Peter Morgan and Joe Penhall
R for some strong violence and gruesome images, sexual content and language

What makes The Last King of Scotland absolutely necessary viewing isn't its historical reclamation (although it is powerful), its superb production design (which is impressive on a small budget) or its surprisingly taut drama (which it offers in spades). Ultimately, the reason to watch Kevin MacDonald's unlikely dual biography of the savage Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and his personal doctor, the Scotsman Nicholas Garrigan, are the two phenomenal actors who play them. Like no other film this year, Forest Whitaker (Ghost Dog) and James McAvoy (The Chronicles of Narnia) inhabit their roles so fully that the film around them transforms into a major document of 1970's cultural myopia ; the odd-duck relationship between these men is so majestically conceived that the world of Uganda sharpens in focus, and the social, emotional, political and psychological complexities raise like goose bumps into stark relief. It is a film powered by its performances, made better by its execution.

Even those unfamiliar with the genocide perpetrated by Amin will be able to follow the tale; they may also stare in astonishment at Whitaker's deft handling of the psychopathic general. Showing us the tender side of a barbarian is audacious; exhibiting Amin's phobic isolation in equal amounts of sympathy and severity is nothing short of miraculous. His palpable affection for Garrigan makes the sprial of violence and brutality in the film's last hour disturbingly intimate, something movies rarely take the time to do anymore. It is a power matched by the metamorphosis of McAvoy's woefully unprepared doctor, who revels in 70's licentiousness even as civilization crumbles around him. When the savagery of Amin finally crashes into his world -- through the power of another wonderful performance, Kerry Washington as Amin's neglected wife -- McAvoy perfectly captures the inadequacy of basic humanity to deal with such situations.

Like other recent films about violence in Africa (Hotel Rwanda, Tsotsi), it will be difficult for The Last King of Scotland to find an audience in America. But the film can stand on its own as a dramatic entity, beyond its pedigree as history piece or 'serious' cinema. No English-language film released this year, with the possible exception of United 93, has offered such exhilarating performative tension. It is a nail biter in the truest sense of the word.



Post a Comment

<< Home