(out of 5)
Desiring very much to be away from his father’s boring life as a general practitioner, newly graduated doctor James McAvoy spins a globe in his bedroom in Scotland and, after abandoning the idea of a place as boring as Canada, decides to haul his ass off to a little African country called Uganda. There, he just happens to catch the meteoric rise of a powerful general named General Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), who wins the popular voice with his uber-charismatic personality and promises of a better life for his people than the one provided by their recently usurped leader. McAvoy grows to love the general and becomes his personal physician after a whirlwind of outlandish circumstances find him living the high life in the capital city, ignoring some pretty broad warning signs that point to an uncertain future. When McAvoy becomes aware that his hero is possibly a mass murderer (the eventual death toll under Imin’s orders was approximately 300,000 people), McAvoy has to consider the fact that his life is in danger. Two awe-inspiring performances guide this magnificent debut by documentary filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (Touching The Void), a gorgeous return to the great political thrillers of the eighties that is at turns humorous, touching and terrifying, with McAvoy doing a stunning job of going from optimistic adventure-seeker to highly scrupulous survivor. Whitaker is a real powerhouse, so intimidating as Amin that even stock footage of the real man in the film’s finale does nothing for an audience that has been terrorized for two hours by his portrayal. Gorgeously photographed, skillfully edited, written and scored, this film (which also features a wonderful cameo appearance by Gillian Anderson) succeeds on every single level.
Fox Searchlight Pictures, DNA Films, FilmFour, UK Film Council, Scottish Screen, Cowboy Films, Slate Films, Tatfilm
Cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle
Music by Alex Heffes
Production Design by Michael Carlin
Costume Design by Michael O’Connor
Film Editing by Justine Wright