Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Ugandan Tony Montana: The Last King of Scotland.

2006, directed by Kevin Macdonald.

"Based on the events of the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin's regime as seen by his personal physician during the 1970s"

Yes, well. This film made a wonderful first for my "edge" list. I clenched a lot. And while it was just slightly less disturbing than Hotel Rwanda, there are a few images that I'll have trouble getting out of my head (third wife). 

Everything written about Forrest Whitaker is true; he stole every scene and was amazing throughout. Best Actor win, and well earned. "You're a child; that's what makes you so fucking scary," says Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McEvoy) to Amin (Whitaker), and it's true. Half the time President Amin is praising his physician, the other half either berating him or denying him the right to speak at all. What paranoia! I actually thought he might start setting his own cabinet up in these elaborate schemes to catch them lying to him, Tony Montana-style, with or without a large pile of cocaine on his desk.

I really liked this, although I have to say that the events were shown in a much more light-hearted way than I remember Hotel Rwanda doing or others films like this that deal with genocide or the general decline of a civilization not Mafia-related. But I suppose it's sly and valid, to a point, of course the people who are living in the President's favor are going to be jutting about to pool parties, listening to seventies music, drinking, and doing it while the less fortunate populous gets, you know, exterminated. Of course they're going to try to keep it under wraps! I felt a bit like Nicholas when it was revealed that this all had been going on though, like, what? When did they snatch that guy? And I didn't really hear any gunshots or anything, are you sure? That said, the signs were definitely all there; you knew Amin was unstable from the beginning.

Also, Dr. Garrigan could have been a little bit wiser about many things. I think he made bad decision after bad decision, the queen mother of course being getting busy with Amin's third wife (Kerry Washington)! I don't care how much you had to drink, Bloody Hell, man! You're a doctor, for Christ's sake! Birth control, ever heard of it? Things end horribly for her. In fact, the one serious critique I have of the filmmaking was that it wasn't clear to me whether his walk down the hospital halls was actual or a dream sequence because of all the weird voices and lighting changes. Seeing what eventually happened to the woman was a complete and utter shock. I spent the next few scenes trying to figure out what exactly had been done to her. . . Shallow side note: Scully has never looked hotter. I had no idea Gillian Anderson was even in this until I read full credits on IMDB. Nice work!

The power or edge of a film like this is usually the exposure factor, as Americans who maybe don't read enough world news, we leave the theater thinking, My God, did these things really happen? There can be no catharsis for us, the viewers, because we know things either will never get better or have indeed gotten worse. It's just the knowing that we're left with, we become knowers of unpleasantness. 

In a closing monologue to "Death's Head Revisited," Rod Serling says (of Dachau, and why it must be kept standing) that "the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. . . " Kind of fitting for things of this nature. So watch this, if for no other reason than to appreciate how good you have it.


Donald said...

Gillian Anderson, hmmm? You've captured my interest. Or maybe I'll just watch some X-Files reruns.

I'm sure this is a great movie. I don't know why I've never had any interest in seeing it. Maybe it's because Idi Amin was one of the worst monsters in human history and I don't need to see him in a movie.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

Finally, a movie I've seen.

I didn't love this film, though. I think my problem with it was that there wasn't enough transition between Idi Amin seeming like a good guy and then finding out that he's basically the devil incarnate.

Anna said...

yes! i mean he was a little bit. . . snappy, i suppose with that whole car accident thing, and maybe a little moody, and they planted the seeds all right, but the genocide? when was all that happening? and when were those orders being given?

Donald said...

SNL should do a parody skit called Steve and Idi, where they'd pair up Steve Lawrence with Idi Amin instead of Eydie Gorme.

Anybody? Anybody? Steven and Eydie? Hello?

Anna said...

is this with sinatra or instead of him?