“I thought I was going to have a heart attack watching that!” Jeana exclaimed as she emerged from the cinema after this heart in mouth movie. I’m sure many millions of Ugandans at the time of Idi Amin’s sick rule would empathise with that emotion.
The really insightful thing about Kevin MacDonald’s film is how effortlessly he dramatises the seductive charms that so many dictators like Amin impose on their subjects. You almost like Whittaker’s Amin. He’s cheeky, funny, charming – even vulnerable at times.
Power is a very powerful thing. It’s when people get close to that power that their behaviour can be seriously affected. And the depiction of that is what lies at the heart of this great movie.
You just about get as far as thinking that Amin is a more likable character than Dr Garrigan (James McEvoy)- his willingly co-opted personal physician. Just about.
Garrigan is never complicit in any of Amin’s crimes, but the movie brilliantly demonstrates how Amin (played beautifully and Oscar winningly by Forrest Whitaker) corrupts him. His arrogates towards the British Ambassador, his disposal of the rural missionaries he came to Uganda to help in the first place and his sleeping around (even with one of Amin’s wives) are all utterly selfish. And fuelled by his close personal relationship with Amin.
The film winds itself up into a crescendo of violence to the that’s like sitting in the launchpad in Space Mountain (believe me that’s a scary moment).
Thought provoking and authentic, thanks partly to shooting on location and partly due to Whittaker’s performance this is a very good movie indeed.