Monday, March 05, 2007

The Last King of Scotland

The Last King of Scotland is the fictitious account of Nicholas Garrigan, a young Scot who becomes Amin's personal doctor and 'closest advisor'. Nicholas (James McAvoy, last spotted as Mr. Tumnus in Narnia), a blue-eyed, pink-cheeked, young doctor, arrives in Uganda sometime in the 1970s. To Nicholas, Uganda is an adventure, an escape from living up to his father's stature, and aborted attempts to kindle romance with a kindred spirit in Sarah Merrit (Gillian Anderson aka Scully from the X-Files). After a fateful meeting with the charismatic Amin who exchanges his general's uniform shirt for Nicholas' Scotland football jersey, he is invited to become Amin's personal doctor. Seduced by Amin's charm and the idea of having a blast, Nicholas takes up the post.

Even as he begins to get drawn into the cesspool that is Amin and his tyranny, Nicholas stubbornly refuses to see whats right under his very nose. And by the time he finally admits the truth to himself, its too late - he has caused the torture and death of one of Amin's closest aides. When Nicholas gets ready to run, Amin turns tyrant on him and Nicholas is forced to stay in Uganda. And to make things worse, Nicholas begins an affair with Kay (Kerry Washington), one of Amin's wives. When Kay becomes pregnant and is forced to seek a village doctor, Amin butchers her. For some strange reason, Amin spares Nicholas, till he foolishly tries to poison the dictator. Even as Amin is sweet talking the world media at Entebbe, the tortured Nicholas manages to escape along with the non Jewish passengers being flown out of the country.

While Garrigan's character is completely fictional, what happened to Uganda under Amin is not. By the end of his reign in 1979, Amin had murdered more than 300,000 Ugandans he suspected of plotting against him. He is also believed to have eaten the flesh of his supposed enemies (the only reference in this movie is when Amin jokingly tells his guests at a state dinner that the meat is non human) and god knows what else. The movie doesn't show any of this in graphic detail, but the glimpses it provides are enough to to convey the extent of horror perpetrated by the Amin regime.

Forest Whitaker is simply brilliant as Idi Amin - charismatic and majestic when Amin is playing the charmer, coldly cruel and menacing when his paranoia takes over. Whitaker plays Amin with a fully human touch, so that the audience sympathizes with him even as it is horror struck by his atrocities. When Whitaker laments that everyone is out to kill him, you feel his agony reaching out to you. A performance of a lifetime and Oscar well deserved!

That said, watching The Last King of Scotland was nothing short of a visual treat! No, I am not talking about Forrest Whitaker's brilliant portrayal of the mad Ugandan dictator. James McAvoy is so damn pretty that its distracting! With his ruby red lips, clear blue eyes and poetic wavy hair, it becomes very difficult to concentrate on his performance. That he manages to act the part of Nicholas Garrigan with any conviction is a feat, one that most good looking actors fail to accomplish. Which is probably why actors like the amazing(!) Gael Garcia Bernal can get away with a wider range of roles. Cillian Murphy is equally pretty, but he can look pretty creepy if he wants to - remember Batman Begins? It'll be interesting to watch the kind of roles McAvoy gets post The Last King.

Verdict - Don't miss it!

In other news, played Holi for the first (and last) time yesterday. Was great fun. Scrubbing the colours out wasn't.

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