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The Last King of Scotland

Written by kevin

I was in Abuja at the weekend and had to stay for a meeting on Monday. As it turned out Monday was a public holiday (announced on Friday), so the meeting was moved to Tuesday. A whole day to hang around in Abuja, marvellous!

Karen and I occupied some time by going to the cinema, to see The Last King of Scotland. This was at Abuja’s (fairly) new cinema inside Ceddi Plaza, operated by a subsidiary of South African company Nu Metro. It’s just like a real cinema although we were reminded we were in Nigeria when the power went off twice and we had to wait for somebody to go and start the generator.

The film itself was very good. From a VSO perspective it’s interesting to see the changes in Nicholas Garrigan’s outlook, as shown through the use of colour and music in the film. He starts off thinking everything is lovely, colourful and full of life and has little tolerance of the more cynical outlook of Sarah Merrit.

Forest Whitaker as Amin is incredible, convincingly showing both the charm and menace of the man. Too many films turn those kind of characters into comic-book bad guys, without showing how it is that they manage to attract their followers.

(Stop here if you’ve not seen the film and don’t want to spoil the ending)
I also liked the character Nigel Stone, a scruffy British diplomat who originally appears as a figure of fun but becomes more sinister as Garrigan becomes more entwined with Amin.

Quite a few changes have been made compared to the book, some to make the story fit into a film and others for added drama. I felt that some of these made Garrigan seem like a less sympathetic character, giving less time to show how he is gradually sucked in. The ending seems a bit unnecessarily gruesome, designed just to shock.

There has been some criticism that they felt the need to have the film presented from the perspective of a white man, rather than a Ugandan. This is probably because that’s how it was in the book and also reflecting that fact that the film was made by FilmFour for a largely white European/American audience. I’d like to see more films presenting Africa from an African perspective but the movie studios as they currently are probably wouldn’t be willing to take the risk.

It’s a great film and I recommend it.

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 5th, 2007 at 09:38 and is filed under films, VSO.

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