Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Last King of Scotland

My nipples are still a bit itchy following trip to the cinema a couple of Thursday’s ago.

But the night started with the disappointment that my pet Chinese restaurant in London’s China Town has closed ... but only for a month in order to do some much needed renovations.

The food in Mr Yung’s isn’t the best, but they’re one of the few restaurants in China Town to serve Mixed Hors D’oeuvres for one. (Normally, there’s a minimum of two people.) So I trade a decent main course for my favourite starter! So after a consoling burger in TGI Friday’s I headed around to the Curzon to see The Last King of Scotland.

James McAvoy has been missing from the past two series of Shameless on Channel 4. (Incideltally, he’s married to Shameless co-star Anne-Marie Duff who played Fiona Gallagher.)

McAvoy plays the part of Dr Nicholas Garrigan, a young doctor who arrived in Uganda in the middle of a coup having fled from the opportunity and expectation to join his father’s GP practice. He’s an self-confident, arrogant chap, with an eye for the ladies.

Forest Whitaker’s Idi Amin comes to village where Garrigan is working. Even from that first appearance there’s something about his rhetoric that doesn’t ring true:

“All my life I never eat my food before my servants eat theirs”

After the President suffers a run in with a local cow on the way home, Garrigan is sought out to become his personal physician, a role that morphs into being Amin’s closest and most trusted advisor. But it’s all a bit of a laugh, an adventure to be enjoyed, with no worries and no regrets. While Garrigan is a fictitious character (pieced together from various sources), Amin is played as he was in life.

While Amin starts of affable, he tends to laugh at other people’s expense, and there are fleeting hints of menace and paranoia.

Garrigan sometimes looks like Joseph in Potiphor’s house, just without the ethical backbone. He takes a risk and speaks out, informing on a colleague. Then he struggles to reconcile his conscience with the consequences, one person’s death and his own inability to leave the country. Trapped, he starts to see how bad the suffering has become across Uganda.
Amin becomes increasingly erratic and distrustful.

“You are my closest aide.”

“You are like my son.”

“You are nothing but a doctor”

Maybe not surprising since McAvoy is trying to poison the President and has just got his third wife pregnant!

The film asks questions about whether it’s possible to be at the heart of a government (or a company or charity) and be truly ignorant of evil that’s going on around you. Is it possible to be blind to the obvious? When does loyalty stop stretching and snap? At what point does being na├»ve switch to being complicit?

It’s not for the feint hearted—like Casino Royale, there’s a torture scene that makes you wriggle in your cinema seat— but if you’re brave then don’t miss it at your local cinema.

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