Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Movie Review: "The Last King of Scotland"

This film will not make you want to visit Africa any time soon!!

A film very-well-worth-seeing, however, one that aesthetically assaults the senses...Violence, quick cutting, throbbing music, vivid color...And powerful performances, especially by Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin, Kerry Washington as his wife (the hero's--not Idi Amin--African love interest), Gillian Anderson (as the hero's European love interest) and especially Simon McBurney subtle against-the -grain performance as the government heavy. Unfortunately, James McEvoy, the Scot idealistic young hero, gives a less than adequate performance as a Scot idealist who goes to Africa as a physician to 'help'. As the audience eyes into the brutality and passionate horror of the piece, his soft performance leaves one looking for a hero to like, admire and identify with.

The IMDB story summation: "Based on the events of the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin's regime as seen by his personal physician during the 1970s."

The film is based on a novel about the events, and is well directed by Kevin MacDonald. The conceit of the piece is akin to Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" (the novelistic basis of "Apocalypse Now"): a good man travels into the heart of Africa, only to find the rot...outside and within in his own soul.

I wanted to be overwhelmed more. The film touched my senses, my appreciation, my actor's respect but not my heart. That is primarily the script's fault. It emphasizes filmic style over substance, illustration over dramatization. I never fully understood the why of what went on, and therefore never left with the lesson of the piece: other than "men are brutal, men are corrupt", and common people suffer because of it (although the film never lets us know any of them except as an anonymous and thus capable-of-being-distanced-from undifferentiated mass). As I said in the lead ofd this piece, the film seduces us to stay out of Africa unless we want to go as crazy as the hero...which is unfortunate and I'm sure unintended result since Africa is the greatest tragedy of modern times...and that continent and its people need all the attention, love, concern, humanity and help it can get.

A better film on the same subject is "Hotel Rwanda".


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