Rated-R. Running time: 2 hours 3 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 5; Language 5; Sex/Nudity 6.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers;
protect me from those who are violent,
who plan evil things in their minds
and stir up wars continually.
They make their tongue sharp as a snake’s,
and under their lips is the venom of vipers.
Thus Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) might have prayed well into his period of service as chief health minister and close adviser to Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), the ruthless dictator of Uganda. The young doctor had come to Africa right out of medical school, partly to get away from his father, and partly to pursue the adventure he saw in serving a medical mission. Adapted for the screen by Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock, and directed by Kevin Macdonald, the original novel tells the story of Idi Amin through the eyes of a character only partly fictional, as there was a white ex-soldier named Bob Astles who advised the dictator, and who was also briefly imprisoned by the hot-tempered ruler when he fell into out of favor.
The film is a good parable of the friendly face that evil can put on and of the difficulty in breaking away from its grasp when one has become involved with it—and also of the cost of redemption. Film buffs will want to see this because of the powerful performance of an actor who usually plays gentle characters (see him as the father in the wonderful Wayne Wang film Smoke). Mr. Whitaker certainly deserves his Oscar nomination for Best Actor! However, be aware of the scenes of brutal violence and torture, as well as the adulterous love scenes. This film definitely is not for every one.
Reprinted from the Winter 2006 Visual Parables.