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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (2006)

KING goes too far past the fact-inspired story of Giles Foden’s novel about the Odd Couple relationship between African dictator Idi Amin and the remarkably un-idealistic young Scottish physician who became his confidant & minister. Moving rapidly from one unlikely situation to another, the film tries to walk a fine line between farce & tragedy, but we're asked to ‘buy into’ too many hard-to-swallow plot turns. And it hardly helps that megger Kevin MacDonald employs such a pointlessly busy camera style. (He once made a Howard Hawks docu, but apparently learned nothing from it.) Forest Whitaker’s portrayal of Amin swept the awards, but who couldn’t have aced this guy? As the politically naïf doctor, James McAvoy never condescends to temper the hubristic arrogance of his out-of-his-depth civilian, but he can’t make a viable drama out of his irresponsibility. There’s a better story and certainly a better film hiding in here; maybe it’s buried in something a bit closer to the facts.

NOTE: Those in need of a primer on the insidious brand of genteel anti-Semitism so pervasive amongst the type of uppercrust Brits who wrote & directed this pic can sample the technique during the Entebbe hostage crisis sequence that's tastelessly used to juice up the finale. In this film's telling, the Palestinian airplane hijackers separate all the passengers into Israelis & non-Israelis, but the real-life hijackers (German led Palestinians) were far less particular (or PC) and simply separated Jews from non-Jews.

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