Monday, May 28, 2007

The Last King of Scotland

The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald, 2006) [5]

The string of mediocre films continues with this over-praised one. All talk gravitates towards Forest Whitaker's performance as Idi Amin but I'll admit I didn't find it overly spectacular. I had seen Barbet Schroeder's documentary on Amin before this, and the man's performance in that as himself trumps Whitaker's imitation. Unlike Helen Mirren in The Queen, Whitaker never really embodies the role of Amin and give it any dimension; it feels more like simple mimicry. Beside that performance, the James McAvoy character of the Scottish doctor really pissed me off. At the beginning, he comes across as an over-eager boy just wanting to do good only to get wrapped up in a situation going steadily out of control that he had no idea of anticipating. My main issue with this (and I'm sure it's been mentioned in other reviews) is that we see all this violence and chaos in Africa through the eyes of a white man, who is justifiably horrified by the savagery of "the other." I don't want to get into a deep discussion on race and viewpoint, but while not done overtly or on purpose, the whole idea of this film has a hint of racism. Not derogatory racism, but there is clearly a difference in the thoughts and morals of the Garrigan, the educated white, and the savage and frankly, black society around him. Telling this story through the eyes of an (white) outsider doesn't feel right. What saves this film partly is Kevin Macdonald's direction, which while being unable to decide if I really like it, is definitely interesting. His use of extreme zooms and herky-jerky style are reminiscent of 70s era film, appropriate for the era of the film. Something similar was done in his documentary, One Day In September. The interesting aesthetics, however, don't outweigh the questionable choices Macdonald made in storytelling.

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