December 2, 2006 -- This film with a deceptive title is a story of a descent into madness and murder, reminiscent of movies like “Apocalypse Now” and more recent films like “Hotel Rwanda,” “Training Day” and “Harsh Times.” It is the story of how men become corrupted by power and how they are capable of the most horrendous evil imaginable. Based on Giles Foden's prize-winning novel, the story centers around the follies of a young Scottish Physician, Nicholas Garrigan (played by James McAvoy of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”). Bored with home life, he sets out for Uganda with a naive sense of adventure. By chance, he meets the new dictator of Uganda, Idi Amin (played by Forrest Whitaker of “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai”) and becomes his favorite doctor. Amin offers Garrigan the opportunity to be his personal physician and to head up the country's health services.
Garrigan is completely taken in by Amin's personal charm, but after a time he slowly begins to realize that Amin is a very dangerous and unstable man. Garrigan makes a number of blunders before he gets in harm's way, none bigger than his idiotic decision to have an illicit affair with one of Amin's many wives, Kay Amin (Kerry Washington of “Ray”). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Garrigan has gotten himself into a world of trouble here. Idi Amin doesn't need much of an excuse to murder someone, and betrayal is one thing that really sets him off. The film does a fine job of showing how someone like Garrigan could be slowly corrupted by power and how he could turn a blind eye toward the craziness building up around him.
While Garrigan is a pretty slimy fellow himself, the story makes him likeable enough that the audience does care if he lives or dies. Whitaker's depiction of Amin is masterful and has resulted in a lot of Oscar speculation, but it is really a supporting performance to James McAvoy's stellar leading man performance in an even more difficult role. McAvoy should not be overlooked since the film hangs on him and he is in nearly every scene. Kerry Washington is also very good as a woman who knows better than Garrigan what kind of trouble the two are in. Also good is David Oyelowo (“As You Like It”) as the courageous Dr. Junju. Gillian Anderson (“House of Mirth”), unrecognizable with blonde hair, also has a minor role in the film. The acting is excellent throughout and the director does a great job building both foreboding and suspense throughout the film. The only problem I had with the film is the ending, which I won't spoil here, but it is beyond belief. Nevertheless, this is one of the best films of the year. It rates a B+.
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