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The Last King Of Scotland

This is a British film made with the involvement of FilmFour, so I was naturally sceptical when it's own review said,"Don't miss it". But was my scepticism deserved?

It's 1970 in Scotland and a fresh-faced medical student graduates. As he sits down with his family and they make a toast to a lifetime as a general practicitioner, he is plotting something with far more excitement...

...and he gets it. As the result of choosing a random location, our newly qualified doctor arrives in Uganda - just on the day that Idi Amin comes to power. As the result of a medical emergency, their paths cross. Amin wants him to be his personal physician - and with the offer of a glorious lifestyle from a man who describes himself as being,"..in perfect health..", he naively agrees, turning his back on the village that he originally set out to help.

At the beginning, the two are like best friends. Amin's love of Scotland influences him to install him as a personal advisor - and gradually the friendly facade of Amin is chipped away. What starts out as a largely amusing film slowly deteriorates into trauma over the two hours as the full extent of his atrocities becomes known. Amin was reportedly responsible for the deaths of 300,000 of his own people. Whilst this largely isn't shown during the course of the film, there are a couple horrific events that leave you in no doubt about how barbaric and paranoid he was, further spurring on the doctor's will to escape.

Forest Whitaker plays Idi Amin brilliantly. Whilst I have absolutely no idea what Amin was like, he plays him as a charismatic and larger-than-life rogue of a character at the start, slowly descending into that of a corrupt murderer, making it infinitely more powerful and horrific than any random slasher movie. James McAvoy is also excellent as Dr Garrigan, gradually losing his naivety as the film gathers pace. Also worthy of mention is Gillian Anderson, who takes a supporting role. I haven't seen her since the X-Files - and my, she's aged.

This is a film that manages to do many things, educating us about the disaster that was Uganda during the 70's, managing to entertain you (cue flatulence) and finally hitting home the horror of genocide. It also shows the duplicity of international relations. The British diplomats will instantly irritate you, I guarantee.

So was my scepticism deserved? No, it wasn't. The film has a compelling story-line (bearing in mind that it's only loosely based upon true events) combined with some award-winning acting. As one of the first films I've seen in 2007, this is a good omen if we continue to get offerings of such quality.
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