Monday, March 15, 2010

Movies: The Last King of Scotland

Continuing on the topic of Academy Award-winning performances during my trans-Pacific flight, Forest Whitaker provides an ideal counter-example to Sandra Bullock: here is a man who deserved his Best Actor award.

I didn't see The Last King of Scotland when it was out a few years ago, even though I'd heard it was fantastic, because it seemed rather violent, or news-y, or just not me. I wasn't quite as robust in the past (not that I really am all that robust now; I still had to cover my eyes at the end of the film), and shied away from any non-fictional displays of cruelty (ironic, isn't it, that we tend to find fictional, i.e. gratuitous, cruelty less disturbing?) But after four hours of fluff, I was ready for something serious to chew on.

Not that The Last King of Scotland is such a first-rate film; I actually think it's a rather small, thin thing, structured only as much as is necessary to give Whitaker room to play his role. Garrigan, the young Scottish doctor along with whom we become enchanted and then disturbed and then disillusioned with Amin, is actually quite a cad, who could be said to deserve the grotesque meat-hook treatment he receives at the film's climax. Amin is a madman, but there is truth in his accusations of the supposed hero's intentions: that he has come to Uganda not to give, but to take. I'm not so sorry to see him given a near-lethal dressing down.

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