Friday, November 03, 2006

The Last King of Scotland

Whoa. Think Collateral meets Training Day meets The Devil Wears Prada (and all the category fraud that entails).

White man ventures into strange territory, hoping to do good in the world. Meets black man. Everybody worships black man, cause he's so strong and charismatic. Black man unexpectedly offers white man a job. White man reluctantly accepts. Job turns out to involve killing people and looking the other way while others kill people. White man tries to quit job, but can't; he's been sucked in. Much growth, change and chaos ensue.

OK, so I really liked this film a lot. And unexpectedly so. I came out of it saying to "OMG, that was so f*cking amazing" (and James McAvoy is so f*cking HOT) but then I ended up discussing/arguing with someone afterward whether and how it might have been racist - or at least racially insensitive - since it's told from a white perspective, by white filmmakers, and is about this white man going into a black country and finding it savage and brutal.

But I didn't think it was really about race. On the surface, it was, sure, but it was more about Nick Garrigan's emotional journey. And about crazy Idi Amin. I suppose it must be frustrating as a black person to have to represent on film a white person's discovery of brutal savagery - that is fair enough - but I thought the way it unapolagetically shoved issues in your face (in a real way, not a Crash) way, and offered itself as a venue for discussion, was refreshing and searingly emotional. And it was just SO well done. Racist? Not racist? I dunno, let's discuss. I thought it was really about a man encountering a complex, dictatorial personality from the inside; that dictator just happened to be black.

Yes, Forest Whitaker was amazing as said dictator, but I actually found James McAvoy (the film's true lead) to be equally if not more amazing. Whitaker's part is more showy, against type, a real person, etc. but let us not skim over the fact that McAvoy was stellar in this movie. He is the real deal as an actor. He actually reminds me a lot of Ewan... except less frivolous. I can't quite picture Ewan in a movie like this. But anyway, McAvoy's definitely the hottest thing out of Scotland since Ewan. Charming, adorable, hot, talented - he takes the audience on Nicholas' journey from cocky young med school grad, to frontier doctor, to sobered man, with amazing virtuosity. I kind of love him.

There's even a really hot sex scene between him and one of the women in the film who shall remain nameless - okay, there are actually a couple of sex scenes with him, and he even gets naked - but one is particularly scorching and isn't gratuitous at all. OK I know James McAvoy having hot sex onscreen is not what this movie was about, but it was SUCH a great, unexpected perk.

Anyway. Great acting - Kerry Washington and Gillian Anderson (!) are great in small supporting roles, too - and very savvy writing, directing, editing, and cinematography make this one of the year's best films. Really. I'm glad Whitaker is getting attention, but I think the script, direction, and especially James McAvoy deserve attention, too (and NOT in the supporting category).

Right now I feel like it's the best thing I've seen all year (EDIT: I no longer feel this way). I guess it doesn't quite have that kind of cinematic "magic" exhibited by the very best films, but it's still very good indeed.

Verdict: "Some may not like it, but it's worth seeing for Whitaker and McAvoy... a dynamite pair."


Blogger Yaseen Ali said...

Glad you liked it - I also think the charges of racism are stretching it; I think Nathaniel articulated a defense of the film a while back that was very strong, so I won't try to do so here. I agree that McAvoy was best in show, although Whitaker deserves his raves as well.

11:56 AM  
Blogger adam k. said...

Whoa, there were a lot of typos/missed words in that post. I fixed them.

Anyway, yeah, I don't remember Nathaniel's discussion of this movie (I hadn't seen it yet at the time, so I guess I didn't pay much attention), but I will look it up.

I do think McAvoy was best in show, but it looks like they're promoting it exclusively as a Whitaker vehicle, which isn't really fair. They both deserve nominations. And given the weak field in lead actor this year, they could both get nominations if they're both campaigned in lead. I hope they are. But I doubt they will be. Oh well.

FYC: NBR: Best Breakthrough Performance by an Actor: James McAvoy, The Last King of Scotland

5:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thort he dezervd a nod for Cronicls o' Narnia HE WAS GREATEST ACTOR ALIVE!!!!!111

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, the only thing about McAvoy that seems similar to McGregor to me is that they're both Scottish...
I get what you mean about the 'frivolous' comment. McGregor's never really gonna be a terribly serious dramatic actor is he?

I'll have to see 'Last King of Scotland' though I don't know how soon I'll be able to. I hope McAvoy keeps getting plenty of good roles. I've definitely liked what I've seen from him so far.

2:03 AM  
Blogger adam k. said...

Yeah it is mostly that they're both Scottish, but how many Scottish actors are there really with that kind of international recognition? Plus, McAvoy in Last King sports the same long shaggy haircut Ewan had circa 1997/98, like in Pillow Book, and it reminded me of him.

And they both have that sexy Scottish exuberance, though McAvoy's is more effectively dramatic, while Ewan's is more fun and musical.

1:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yin and yang? ;)

1:11 AM  

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