Kevin MacDonald's large screen drama The Last King of Scotland was honored during the 79th Academy Award with a Best Actor Oscar. Forest Whitaker nabbed the golden statuette for his complex role as the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
Co-star James McAvoy cheered when he heard the announcement. In The Last King of Scotland McAvoy plays Scotsman Nicholas Garrigan. He is fresh out of medical school, wants to explore the world and practice medicine. Garrigan lands in Uganda on the same day that General Idi Amin takes power in 1971.
At a political rally Garrigan hears Idi Amin talk about his vision of a new, better Uganda. He is smitten by the despot's charisma. At a chance meeting in the jungle, he bandages Amin's bruised hand and wins his confidence. Amin asks Garrigan to be his presonal physician.
"He's fascinated by that man" says James McAvoy about his character. "That man tells him that he is special. A man like Amin tells Nicholas Garrigan 'you are special.'"
Nicholas Garrigan is a pliable man, flattered by Amin's attentions and all too eager to overlook his brutal ways. Garrigan is a fictitious character. Idi Amin's real life doctors saw the flaws in Amin's personality . Dr. David Barkham, was one of them.
"I think he was at times what we call "hypermanic" says Dr. Barkham. "He [Amin] was excited. He thought he had better understanding than most people of what was going on and that his ideas, which on the whole were fairly obvious, were in fact the ideas of a genius and that he owed it to the world to put the world right."
While Forest Whitaker brings the dictator's manic behavior to life, British journalist Jon Snow says the media exploited Amin's erratic manners to present a larger-than-life ogre, a people-eating monster.
"There was no great interest in portraying Africa as anything other than a basket case and Amin a classic African dictator" says the British journalist. That kind of fulfilled the tabloid need. 'See, that's what they are like.'"
Actor Forest Whitaker says that one of the reasons Idi Amin was so demonized was because he was a figure that really stood against colonization. "He said, 'Get out! We can handle our own affairs.' "
Idi Amin was so defiant of the West, that once in power he proclaimed himself conqueror of the British Empire, and offered to be King of Scotland. Idi Amin was fond of all things Scottish
The film exposes Amin's volatile personality through his tender and terse relationship with Garrigan.
But it only touches on Amin's brutality towards his people
What carries the film is Whitaker's masterful acting. One minute he is a charmer. The next, he is the devil.
Delicate and refined as Garrigan, James McVoy holds his own next to the hulking dictator.
The Last King of Scotland keeps us on the edge of our seats and takes our emotions on a wild ride.