REEL CRITICS:Echoes of today in well-acted 'Last King'

October 27, 2006|By SUSANNE PEREZ

When Gen. Idi Amin Dada became president of Uganda in 1971, there was much rejoicing in the streets. A giant of a man with a dazzling smile, he charmed all as he pledged his devotion to improving the lives of his people.

By the time he was ousted from power eight years later, more than 300,000 of those people would be dead.

"The Last King of Scotland" is a mixture of fact and fiction, and features a powerhouse performance by Forest Whitaker as the murderously mad dictator, who could be childlike one minute and terrifying the next.

Equally impressive is James McAvoy's portrayal of a young Scottish doctor, seduced by Amin's charisma and power, who serves as his personal physician and advisor.


Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (McAvoy), fresh out of medical school and working in a small Ugandan village, is a fun-loving lad with an eye for the ladies.

He treats Amin (Whitaker) for a minor wound and the president is instantly taken with him after learning he's from Scotland. Amin is a great fan of all things Scottish, and the movie's title is one of many the ruler bestowed upon himself.

Garrigan is at first reluctant to join the leader's staff, but he is soon mesmerized by the man and his extravagant lifestyle. Overly confident of his position in Amin's inner circle, he chooses to ignore what is really going on in Uganda and makes some extremely foolish choices with no thought of the consequences.

As Amin's paranoia escalates, so does the bling on his uniform, as well as the body count.

"The Last King of Scotland" gives us a brief portrait of a beautiful country and a people victimized by a monster. And while Idi Amin may be gone, he is not the last of his kind in the world today.

  • SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.

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