During the early part of the 1970s, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker – Phone Booth, The Crying Game) ran that country and managed to mesmerize the rest of the world while he slaughtered his own people.
Young Scottish doctor, Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy – Wimbledon, The Chronicles of Narnia), is disillusioned about his life at home and decides to forge out on his own to practice medicine somewhere in the world. After spinning the globe in his bedroom, he ends up in Uganda and is placed in a rural hospital with Dr. David Merritt (Adam Kotz – starred in many British television series) and his wife, Sarah (Gillian Anderson – from television's The X Files). Dr. Merritt is off elsewhere most of the time leaving the very inexperienced Garrigan to his own devices. Garrigan ends up meeting up with Idi Amin and due to Amin love for Scottish soccer they hit it off. Amin likes and trusts Garrigan so much that he offers him the position of becoming his own personal physician. Garrigan cannot resist and takes the position. The physician soon finds himself one of Amin's closest and most powerful advisors. In the beginning this is a great position as Garrigan lives in luxury and becomes a somewhat powerful man. As time passes, Amin becomes more and more paranoid and his behaviour more and more erratic. Amin has an irrational fear that he will be assassinated and makes the people of Uganda pay the price. The situation becomes unbearable and Garrigan wants to leave Uganda, but Amin will not allow it. While trying to figure out a way out of the country, Garrigan's existence becomes even more risky due to the fact that he engages in a adulterous relationship with Kay Amin (Kerry Washington – I Think I Love My Wife, Fantastic Four), one of Idi's wives.
Without a doubt Forest Whitaker's performance as General Idi Amin is by far the best thing about this film. He certainly deserved his Oscar for his work. The man has been one of the most underappreciated actors for many years and this certainly was his coming out party. His performance is so good that he kinda takes over the whole film and you don't notice very much else about it. The good performance by James McAvoy was overlooked and that is a shame because his role is crucial to the story. The relationship between the two men is ably portrayed with all its peaks and valleys. In the beginning Whitaker portrays the dictator as a lovable jolly man then as the film goes on you see the monster that is underneath. As you watch the film you start to get a sick feeling in your stomach when you begin to realize that Amin is not all giggles and belly laughs. The pacing of the story builds realistically and progressively builds the tension. The real reason to see the film is the performance of the lead actor and truly there is no way you could overexaggerate the quality of Whitaker's performance in the film.
Documentary director Kevin MacDonald (directed biographies on Mick Jagger and Charlie Chaplin) brings that genres style to the film and everything about it seems true to life. In conjunction with the interesting script and solid documentary style, the cinematography and all its colours are breathtaking at times.
Where the film does fail is in its refusal to look at, in anyway other than fleetingly, the massacre that was going on in Uganda under Amin's regime. We see that the leader has lost his mind, but the film tries to stay as neutral as possible when it comes to examining the atrocities that were committed under his command. I understand that this was meant to be a biographical film, but I think that this is an aspect of the biography that you cannot skip over. It really gives you a full picture of the man.
-Deleted scenes with optional commentary by Kevin Macdonald
-Documentary: Capturing Idi Amin
-Forest Whitaker Featurette
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