In 1971, Idi Amin took over the country of Uganda with the promise of freeing it from British control. When he fled in 1979, he had executed 300,000 of his own people.
For being a movie that is about Amin’s rule over Uganda, he isn’t the main character of the movie, and at times, not the focal point either. The movie begins with Nicholas (James McAvoy) who becomes a doctor, but then just to spite his father, he decides to go work in Africa instead of some high paying private practice gig. There isn’t much built into his character. We are given little bits of “issues” and then move on. He seems to fit into the village he is working in and makes a pass at Gillian Anderson, who is the wife of another doctor working in the village, except he’s gone somewhere else an awful lot. I really have no idea why Gillian Anderson is in this movie, even though it was nice to see her again. Her character doesn’t even provide a sounding board for Nicholas and is discarded pretty early on in the film when he becomes Amin’s private doctor.
When this movie came out, I checked out the movie website to see who Amin was because I didn’t know. He did horrible things to his own people. I don’t believe this was really touched upon in the movie at all. It is barely mentioned and only referenced at various times. At the end, it shows that the people of Uganda to this day cheer and celebrate his death. That is a really bad man to have people continue to celebrate his death to this day. I don’t believe the executions needed to be shown, but all the violence is so distant that it doesn’t seem as much of an atrocity compared to just reading about what he had done on the website. If a website can be more effective than a movie, I think it has some issues.
Forrest Whitaker is highly impressive though. He is playing a monster of man, yet he is scary in a very calm way. He can be frightening with just a look or give the sense that he might kill someone at any second before breaking into laughter. He doesn’t do it by what he says so much as embodying this scary man. He fully deserved his Oscar for his performance. He really is the only thing worth watching, but is the movie worth watching for just him? I think at least once, but to really get a sense of what actually happened, go searching online! 🙂