Forest Whitaker gives a career-best performance as crazed Idi Amin in Kevin McDonald’s The Last King of Scotland, a (mostly) fictional tale of the infamous dictator and a young Scottish doctor appointed his personal physician.
Real events – Amin´s atrocities and the Entebbe hostage crisis – serve as a backdrop to the story of the fictional doctor (played by James McAvoy and partly based on Brit Bob Astles, Amin´s real-life right-hand man) who comes to Uganda on a whim and inadvertently becomes involved with the newly-elected president.
Plot structure is taken straight out of a Scorsese picture, with happiness in excesses until mysterious disappearances and mass killings.
Whitaker simply dominates the screen here, creating (at first) a likable, lovable dictator, and slowly peeling the layers away into total insanity and vile atrocities.
Borderline ridiculous at times (especially the contrived ending) but fascinating nonetheless. Protracted plot developments threaten to turn Amin into a Bond-movie villain; but hey – perhaps he was.
Documentary filmmaker Macdonald (Touching the Void) owes partial debt to Barbet Schroeder´s 1974 Idi Amin Dada, a documentary overseen by Amin with the dictator staging scenes for the camera; here, Forest Whitaker gives a better ‘performance´ as the general than Amin himself, completely elevating what may have otherwise been a pedestrian thriller.