Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Last King of Scotland

The Last King of Scotland is one of those rare films that isn't really very good but manages to avoid corrupting an absolutely magnificent central performance; this time from Forest Whitaker. Most of the film is a pretty clich├ęd tale of a young European being at first entranced then horrified by the contradictions of Africa. This story has been done many times before and much more convincingly. Equally, there is nothing terribly impressive about the artistic vision at work.

Equally, it is questionable whether the plot does its best to showcase Amin. It misses some of the more obvious events which might showcase the character; holding a press conference to rebut claims that he was a cannibal and feeding the assembled journalists people without their knowledge, for example. It also should have shown the rescue at Entebbe as the actual raid and Amin's response would have provided the film with important catharsis.

Still, Whitaker exudes such thorough and convincing instability and menace that he must surely be the favourite for the Oscar. He completely fills every room he is in. He actually makes the subservience of those around him credible which would seem the great challenge of playing a truly murderous dictator. I'm going to see Venus to confirm that Peter O'Toole hasn't done something marvellous to stop Whitaker deserving the prize but in any normal year it would clearly be his. Certainly DiCaprio for example, though an excellent actor, isn't in the same league in the role he is nominated for in The Departed.

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