Sunday 11 March 2007

Well worth his Oscar

I rarely go to the cinema, mainly because I just never seem to get round to it , but also no doubt because two hours plus is a long time to go without a cigarette. The last thing I had seen at the cinema before yesterday was Casino Royale (The best Bond film since View to a Kill, in my opinion)

However, yesterday we caught one of the last showings of 'The Last King of Scotland', a film I had wanted to see for a while.
It exceeded my expectations.
Firstly, Forrest Whitaker IS Idi Amin. I don't know how long he spent watching film footage of the Ugandan dictator, but he captures his likemess perfectly. He captures Idi's voice, his mannerisms and the tortuous mixture of jocular humour and paranoia that characterised that entrancing figure.
Secondly, the film wins, beccause it pulls no punches. It tells it like it was, with suspended moral judgement, telling a tale of the dynamics of such a situation really hold together.
Without overpoliticising the point, we are reminded throughout that Africa's problems are down to Werstern countries- in this case Britain- putting in power whichever thug serves their own economic interests best. It doesn't matter how many of their own they massacre as long as they run their countries to help western commercial interests. This could be seen in the film, without needing to be stated.
Thirdly, the film worked because it had a real anti-hero in the role of Dr Nicholas Carragher, a young man who goes to Uganda kidding himself he wants to help people, but really is just up for a bit of fun and adventure, who is flattered to become the friend of a dictator. And we can see the attraction of Amin at first acquintance; crass, vulgar, but a fun loving party animal. The other side we see later- as Nicholas sees it. I knew watching the film, that I would have been much the same. We can see him burdened by his own moral cowardice, knowing that he has become accomplice to atrocities, seeing how we would have done the same. He is young, he wants a good time and some very VERY sexy african women come his way (I'm partial that way myself, so I guess I'd have ended up with the same problems he ended up with, though I would say, when you have just discovered that your boss is a paranoid homicidal maniac, seducing his wife may be unwise; he may not see the funny side).

It was also nice to see Gillian Anderson in a minor part, one of my teen crushes. Nicholas has a try there too, but gets a brush off.
This a real story about real people, with no complete happy ending- except to tell you at the end that Amin was eventually overthrown, which you already knew. It is a tale about people, about hope and the bitterness of realising it was false, of youthful exuberance and realising that you are out of your depth, of the reality of life in much of the globe since decolonisation.
As I said afterwards to the girl I was with. 'It makes you realise, we're run by a w***er, but there are worse w***ers we could be run by.'

This is one of the best films I have seen for a long time. See it at the Cinema if still can. If not, get it on DVD. This will be one of the greats.


Anonymous said...

I've only been to the cinema about 10 times in my entire life, and even then I've regretted paying to see about half of the films I saw there.

It's more of an exercise against corporate marketing campaigns than anything else. I just ask myself 'Is this really something I want to pay to see that I couldn't wait a couple of years for?'

Most of the time I realise that it isn't, and when it does come around to being on TV, I'm not at all interested in seeing it - once the marketing hype has vanished.

But I have to admit, I was tempted by The Last King of Scotland - but I decided to wait instead.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like an excellent film! It would be a dramatization, so not entirely accurate, but good enough to get a sense of the occurances.

Anonymous said...

Certainly as a child, I was fascinated by his story. I'd love to see this film. Pity you've already seen it. I would have shouted you some popcorn and taken you on a date.