"The Last King of Scotland" (2006)
Directed By: Kevin Macdonald
Written By: Jeremy Brock, Peter Morgan
Released: September 27th, 2006
Runtime: 123 minutes
Studio: Fox Searchlight
This film is based on true events of the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin’s regime as seen by his personal physician during the 1970s. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) is a young doctor from Scotland who goes to Uganda to assist in a rural hospital. Once there, he soon meets the new president, Idi Amin. The pair hit it off immediately and Nicholas soon becomes his closest advisor. As the years pass, Garrigan can’t help but notice Amin’s increasingly erratic behaviour as he slowly drives Uganda into bloody ruin. Realising that Amin is not going to allow him to return to Scotland, and realising the dangerous position he is now in, Garrigan must make some decisions that, if found out, could mean his own death. Directed by Kevin MacDonald.
I find this quite a distressing film to watch if I’m honest. Yes, I agree it’s a very good film in principle, but...it's not easy. Between the sound of the cow towards the beginning in pain and then getting shot, a momentary close-up of two huge peacocks just walking around freely (I hate birds), to a scene in which these men are being held with guns to the back of their heads in this shed – all of which simply skim the surface, as I would later discover.
These little aspects aside, I did enjoy the first half of the film. I like Nicholas’ character. He’s very kind-hearted, respectful and tries to do good by everyone. He has initiative and jumps at the chance of helping anyone in need of it. He just wanted to experience something different in his life, so he took off to Uganda. And I even have to say I did sort of like the relationship between him and Ida Ami at the beginning – this being when we were just learning about Ida Ami’s character. But as the film went on hints are dropped that he may not be as pleasant as he initially seemed. This is what probably keeps you guessing enough to you keep watching, which is good.
However, once it got to a certain point in the film I kind of stopped enjoying it so much. But I’d gone so far I wanted to know what happened. Can’t stop watching a film in the middle and not finish it!
In the meantime, Nicholas has been having a kind of affair with one of Ida Ami’s wives, Kay (yes, he had more than one wife, which I know was probably a custom then, but I had forgotten such a thing happened so was slightly appalled during their introductions). I actually liked the relationship between Kay and Nicholas very much. It was sweet. But as we know, things can't stay rosie in the garden forever! She later finds out she’s pregnant and of course should Ami get wind of this he will kill her and Nicholas, so she requests an abortion. Nicholas says he will do it for her, but when he is delayed coming at the designated time, she concludes that he's abandoned her and thus goes about getting it done in the village. Nicholas finds out, races down there, only to discover her mutilated corpse at a morgue and falls to his knees, retching. I was fortunate enough to not be paying attention for whatever reason during that moment, so it didn’t register with me what exactly I was looking at - which in hindsight was lucky I think. So, because I hadn’t been paying attention and couldn’t quite follow what was so wrong with him, I looked it up on wikipedia and thank god I did because I was prepared for what would come in later scenes.
I didn’t watch the torture scene once I knew it was coming. I think if I hadn’t known about it beforehand I’d have gotten such a land because I can’t stomach torture scenes and this really is horrible. Basically, Nicholas is hung at the chest by meat-hooks. I felt sick reading that. I did watch it up to a point without sound (I’ve concluded that sound always makes things worse since the tallyho I had with the scenes in Slumdog Millionaire) so I saw the before shots and the after shots, shall way we say and that was enough. People are cruel. I don’t know how anyone could even come up with such an idea. What is wrong with the world? James McAvoy said in an interview he passed out filming this scene. I’d be more surprised if he didn’t. I mean, there’s so many films with torture scenes and you never hear of this happening, and now that I have, I’m kind of thinking, ‘well why don’t you hear more of this kind of thing happening?’ because surely that’s a more natural reaction to such cruel situations! Or do actors simply switch off during these scenes and just power through? I suppose they have no other choice. But even so. They're horrible enough to watch, I just wonder what goes through the person's head who's acting it.
So...yeah. I realise there are spoilers there, so my apologies for that, but if you’re anything like me you’ll be glad of the forewarning!
This film is thought to be a turning point in James McAvoy’s career and to be fair he is really fantastic in the role. His character is the only fictional one in the story, but based on four real people apparently. The acting all round in this film is really fantastic. I find it hard to comment on any of the other actors though since I’ve never seen them in anything else. But each one is brilliant.
This is a good film. That has to be said. But...personally it’s not the kind of film that I enjoy terribly just because of the subject matter at hand. I watched it purely out of curiosity, really. But if you are wondering what to watch at any given time and you feel like giving it a go then it is worth it...just maybe not before you go to bed like I did! Dreams were had that would have been nice not to have remembered in the morning... There are some things that just can’t be unseen. But oh well.