The Last King of Scotland - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Last King of Scotland Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ June 16, 2014
Brilliant drama with a stunning cast, and engaging story, The Last King of Scotland tells the story of the life of the personal physician of Ugandan dictator General Idi Amin, who is a brutal dictator. The story is a standout drama, one that is highly engaging from start to finish. In the role General Idi Amin is Forest Whitaker, who gives the role a sympathetic nature despite the fact that Idi Amin was a brutal dictator, but that's what makes Whitaker such a standout actor. Starring aside Whitaker is James McAvoy, who has great on-chemistry with Whitaker and both actors elevate the film significantly. The Last King of Scotland is a superbly crafted drama well worth seeing if you want a riveting drama that is highly entertaining from start to finish. What makes the film what it is, is the performances, the well thought out script and unforgettable story, which is what stands out the most about the film. The performances are something quite unique as well, and like I said, Whitaker is truly superb, and I would say that this one of his best performances. The Last King of Scotland is a superb piece of film, one that is well worth seeing if you enjoy the genre, and with an incredible true story, excellent performances, and vivid storytelling, it's a film that will stay with you long after you've seen it. This is a film that is worth seeing, and there never is a dull moment to be had throughout the film. If you're interested in the subject, or simply want to watch a great drama based on real events, and then you can do no wrong watching this film, it's a film well worth seeing, and it's one of tense, thrilling drama that is brilliant in the way that it tackles its story.
Super Reviewer
April 7, 2007
Forest Whitaker's performance here is truly all it's cracked up to me, and he masters the bipolar switches from terrifying to charming that dictators like Amin are often known for. And as regards the story, it's a bit predictable, but the plot keeps twisting and the action is generally steady, the stakes always high; the point of view of the outsider who's been let in (Amin's personal doctor, played by James McAvoy) is a great one from which to tell the story. Fine, competent film-making, but elevated to rarefied air by the quality of the leading man's performance; Whitaker puts what could be a ho-hum movie on his back and carries it. Great stuff.
Super Reviewer
July 14, 2011
Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was portrayed as a funny, charismatic and tender guy, but he never let us forget that he was a maniacal monster. This is a brutal political thriller about power and corruption. The film shows the lengths at one will go for power and money and the persuasion of the population to believe in something that does not exist. The Last King of Scotland is brilliantly acted by Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy and is almost worth seeing for the performances alone.
Super Reviewer
½ March 11, 2007
Based on the experiences of a young Scottish doctor who becomes the unlikely confidante of brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, this film is quite even-handed in it's representation of the two main characters. Whitaker was fully deserving of his Oscar and McAvoy looking for the world like a young Ewan McGregor, it's easy to see how a young hedonist who sees Africa as an adventure playground of life experience would fall for the personal charm and charisma of Amin, while completely insulated from the atrocities he was committing in the outside world. I would have liked to have seen more of the context in which the story was situated, as the audience sees only glimpses of Amin's crimes as Garrigan does so the film does not have the weight it could have. As such it's a very well made and entertaining personal story, but it lacks the real punch of something like The Killing Fields.
Super Reviewer
February 16, 2011
"The Last King of Scotland" is obviously known for winning Forest Whitaker a Best Actor Oscar for his earth shaking performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, but other than that, I feel like it's a rather overlooked film. The movie really is a terrific experience; creating a dizzying, hypnotic and mesmerizing atmosphere. The performances from the supporting cast are great as well. James McAvoy and Gillian Anderson in a small role are excellent. The combination of the meticulous 1970s Ugandan period design and the soft lenses Anthony Dod Mantel uses to shoot his scenes all add to the sense of time and place and urgency.
Super Reviewer
½ June 4, 2010
Even though it was an oscar winning movie, it still doesn't get enough praise for the right reasons. Forest Whitaker is very breathtaking in his role as Idi Amin, but I feel that James McAvoy turned in the better performance and really became overshadowed for no reason. The look of the movie is beautiful and a surreal look at Uganda. The story is well written and a unique way to tell the story of a presidential reign.
Super Reviewer
½ March 30, 2010
People should not think this is a Idi Amin biography, he is a main character, but the story is told from the point of view of his doctor, a Scottish hotshot who loves women a little too much for his own good. And therein lies the problem of the film, Dr. Garrigan is not as likable as he should be. It takes a while for him to realize what country and mess he has gotten himself into and up until that point, the movie is a tad too friendly and harmless. The second half more than makes up for it, as the noose tightens around the protagonist's neck things are getting really exciting. That's when Whitaker starts to shine the most as well, giving a terrific performance as Ugandan dictator.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
December 9, 2009
In my review of Che: Part One (2008), I postulated that it is impossible to make definitive biopics of key historical figures like Hitler and Stalin, because of the sheer volume of historical and intellectual baggage that they bring with them. The Last King of Scotland seems to follow the rule that the best such biopics focus on a small part of the figure?s life and from that form a microcosm which alludes to the bigger picture. Downfall pulled it off by being the most meticulous reconstruction of Hitler?s last days that we have. The Last King of Scotland achieves the same feat by using a fictional story as the prism through which great evil is reflected.

A quick glance at the crew list assures us that we are in safe hands. It is helmed by Kevin MacDonald, who has proved himself a master of suspense in both Touching the Void and State of Play. The screenplay is co-written by Peter Morgan of Frost/Nixon fame, a man whose work handles complex political subjects with brio and knows how
to rack up the tension to breaking point. And it?s shot by Anthony Dod Mantle, an expert in digital photography who would go on to shoot Slumdog Millionaire.

Against all this technical promise, however, we have the opening forty minutes, which are uninvolving and look very sub-Trainspotting. They?re not terrible as in obnoxious, offensive or stupid, but they feel bland and inconsequential in regard to the rest of the film. The best thrillers, like the Bourne series, rely on the protagonists being both believable and likeable before the bad stuff starts happening to them.

James McAvoy is fine, make no mistake, but Gillian Anderson?s character is just so planky that you struggle to form an emotional bond with her. Like Laura Dern?s character in Blue Velvet, she is supposed to serve as the sanctuary to which the protagonist seeks to return after he wades in too deep. But there?s very little that she does on screen which makes us care about what she does and what she stands for. When we see her getting out of Uganda on a bus and James McAvoy running after her, we feel the pain and torment of his character but think almost nothing of her.

Thank goodness, then, for Forest Whitaker, who in both character and acting is lord over all he surveys. He gives a truly great performance, almost on a par with that of Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. What makes it so involving is that the reaction we have to his Idi Amin is exactly that of the McAvoy character: we are initially drawn in by his charisma and deep belly laugh, but as the film rolls on he becomes more paranoid and bloodthirsty, making us fear for our lives. Amin was such a larger-than-life character that it would have been very easy for an actor to slip into pantomime, to play him as a cartoonish, over-the-top witchdoctor. The fact that Whitaker gets it so right, so early on, is proof that the film has the right intentions.

Other reviewers have remarked about the film?s resemblance to Apocalypse Now, both in the nature of its villain and in the shared premise of Heart of Darkness (an outsider going into the darkness of Africa). Whitaker is clearly drawing on Marlon Brando?s Kurtz in his performance, and the initial encounters between Garrigan and Amin could be compared to the scenes between Willard and Kurtz in the temple. To some small extent, this is Apocalypse Now in reverse; instead of strangly warming to evil the closer he gets, Garrigan becomes more desperate to return to ?civilisation?.

The main theme of the film is a surprisingly cynical one, at least for an awards contender. We?ve become used recently to award-winning films like The Interpreter and The Constant Gardener, playing it safe with solidly liberal credentials. So when a thriller comes along which suggests that Western intervention may do more harm than good, it comes as a pleasant surprise.

The film is quite nihilistic insofar as it offer up two opposing theories on post-colonialism and find them both to be inadequate. On the one hand, Western intervention is shown to be futile; Garrigan?s efforts on the ground struggle to compete with local supernatural cures, and the British are clearly implicated in the coup which brings Amin to power. On the other hand, Africa?s ability to produce democracy of its own accord is chastised by the record of Milton Obote, and the speed at which government descends into near-tribal warfare. The first time Amin speaks about a united Uganda, we?re taken in by the rhetoric; the second time, at the party, we?re not so sure.

The filmmakers have clearly done their homework both on the story of Amin and on the culture of Uganda. Numerous scenes start off with characters talking over a great piece of African music, including a great use of Hugh Masakela during the bar scene.
While the story clearly carries so-called ?universal themes?, it isn?t just an ancient morality tale dressed up in 1970s clothing. The Uganda you see on screen looks and feels like 1970s Uganda, from the cars and architecture, right down to the fashions of the ex-pat tailors.

As far as tension goes, the film rises and falls on the strengths of its editing. In the baggy opening, the quick cuts suggest nothing of any substance is happening, and that MacDonald is trying to hurry the story along to get to Amin. By the end of the film, the quick cutting has become a great device, steadily racking up the tension and making you squirm in the process. In both the military base and the airport, the cutting and Whitaker?s close proximity to the camera can scare you half to death. The technique may be borrowed from The Bourne Supremacy, but at least there?s no clunky homage to it amongst all the blood and gunfire.

The Last King of Scotland is not a perfect film by any means. Some of the characters are not properly explored, and there are aspects to the cinematography which don?t quite work. Dod Mantle captures tension well, and you can see hints in this of what he would accomplish on Slumdog Millionaire. But the film is littered with unnecessary zooms which don?t contribute to the tension and often have the opposite effect.

In the end, though, the film rises above most of its flaws via a strong script and even stronger performances. The film is a vivid and compelling portrait of a bloodthirsty dictator, which follows the golden rule mentioned at the start. It only shows us so much of Amin, but the little we see of him is enough to make us fascinated by him. But its greatest triumph is its willingness to challenge the political credentials of our age, a reminder that ?end of history? neo-liberals should not rest on their laurels just yet.
Super Reviewer
½ June 24, 2007
Harsh, brutal movie that just does a fabulous job capturing the chaos of the rule of the maniacal Idi Amin. Whitaker and McAvoy give career performances. Tough to watch at times, especially near the end, but the fact that this story is based on true events is incredible. A must-see.
Super Reviewer
February 13, 2008
Forest Whitaker gives the best performance of his career and also one of the greatest performances in the history of Hollywood cinima. A tour-de-force performance that is truly one of the best i have ever seen. James McAvoy gives a riveting movie star performance, he's a force to be reckoned with. A searingly powerful film that has thrills and intensity. A memerising, gripping, spellbinding and exhilerating drama. Compelling, chilling and absolutely shocking. An unforgettable movie. An explosive and brutal experiance.
Super Reviewer
March 7, 2007
Forest Whitaker gives the second best performance of the year (Helen Mirren was no doubt number one) in an otherwise stellar film.
Super Reviewer
½ January 27, 2007
Good movie, but it didn't leave me feeling particularly inspired or changed. Forest Whitaker is fine, but I don't know - the character never really seemed to rise above caricature for me. The directing feels a little amateurish, what with all the sudden swoops on faces and actions in some confused bid to add excitement to it all, and the politics were really glossy and simplified. The Last King of Scotland is still dramatically potent and well-paced, but nothing outstanding.
Super Reviewer
November 24, 2008
Great performances, but god was this depressing. Why can't they ever make a movie about a despot with an uplifting ending?? Sheesh.
Super Reviewer
½ July 31, 2007
How can an actor terrify you without saying a word, without even hardly moving his face or body? I'm not sure how he does it, but Mr. Whitaker does it over and over again in this movie. And then he turns around the next minute and becomes giant hug-able teddy bear superhero. Forget all the others, this is the best horror film of the year. =D This movie, and his performance in particular, grab hold of you and never let go. Whitaker deserved his Oscar as Best Actor, I've never seen a better performance in my life. Also notable is the Nicholas Garrigan character who is written and acted very skilfully to draw the (non-African) spectator into the world of Uganda and Amin. The way his character willingly "falls into" Amin's web of charisma somehow goes a long way toward mitigating the racist potential of a story about a very troubled man. The way the interplay of the two lead character's cultural backgrounds plays out on screen moves the story beyond just their personalities and into the realm of incisive socio-political analysis and critique. This movie is quite incredible, really.
Super Reviewer
½ December 16, 2007
unbelievably engrossing, frightening and moving.
Super Reviewer
July 13, 2008
Whitaker and McAvoy riff on a new kind of odd couple. The film excels in its structure. McAvoy and us are suckered in to a deceptively seductive world. It's all sunshine and lollipops. Whitaker is one of the nicest men you could possibly meet. Needless to say it all goes a bit wrong. Showing the film through McAvoy's eyes reveals the atrocities one step at a time making them even more shocking. Whitaker creates a sympathetic "villain" Amin isn't evil in this portrayal, as McAvoy points out he is simply a child. Amin can honestly not understand the hate towards him and this makes him all the more dangerous. McAvoy isn't exactly a hero either. Tattling on fellow advisors, fooling around with the presidents wife etc.Both these men are in denial and it's their insular destruction that really captivates.
Super Reviewer
June 20, 2008
What a crazy performance by Forest Whitaker, he went from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"and "Bloodsport" to this Oscar Winning performance. Great film, all I can say is, that was "Cold Bloooded".
Super Reviewer
½ February 11, 2008
The documentary style doesn't help a bit, fortunately Forest Whitaker's histrionic role does. An average and a bit far-fetched political intrigue with good performances.
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