I was glad that The Last King of Scotland came back into theaters this week, because I was sorry to have missed it the first time around. It returned on the buzz created by Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin, and rightly so. His performance was amazing, charismatic and horrific, and the underrated James McAvoy more than held his own, carrying the film in his own right as the willfully naive youth, swept into Amin’s world on a wave of luxury, flattery, and denial.
Like Pan’s Labyrinth, one of the big questions is about the violence. There was both more and less than I had expected. For much of the film, the violence is held off in the background, but when it does come to the forefront it is graphic and has tremendous impact, making this a film I’m glad I saw, but not one I am in any great hurry to see again.
It isn’t, as often implied, a biopic as Amin so much as the journey of McAvoy’s character in Uganda, and that’s the main argued flaw. His character is, I understand, a composite character, providing a white outsider point of view. I do think that the emphasis on Scotland is interesting, makes that outsider point more complex, and begins to address the issue of the perceived need for a white POV character at all. The film is aware of the issue, criticizing what Garrigan thought he was doing in Uganda in the first place.