Slate critic Dana Stevens weighs in on Stephen Frears' The Queen and Kevin Macdonald's The Last King of Scotland.
The Last King of Scotland
never rises to the standard set by Forest Whitaker's fearless (and fearsome) performance as Idi Amin. Whitaker clearly has it in him to plumb the psychological recesses of this curiously playful madman, but the director, Kevin Macdonald (One Day in September
), doesn't ask him to. Instead, Amin serves as a backdrop for the story of Garrigan's moral degeneration. The early encounters between the two men are convincingly fraught with menace, but the last 20 minutes feel like a pat political thriller, with Garrigan's attempted escape from Uganda dovetailing too neatly with the 1976 Israeli raid
on a hijacked jet in Entebbe. This climactic escape sequence also includes a torture scene so graphic and stomach-churning, it makes The Passion of the Christ
look like Operation Dumbo Drop. The Last King of Scotland
is wrenching to sit through, but in the end, it doesn't leave you with quite enough to think about.
takes these questions apart with the psychological precision of a great novel. (Henry James comes to mind, given the resonance the movie grants to tiny violations of politesse.) Its tone is curious; it's a political comedy that's not a satire and a story of mass grief that's not a tragedy. Diana's death is dispatched in one brief, oblique scene (one that clearly lays the blame for the crash at the feet of the paparazzi, then abandons the matter entirely), and Frears' discretion is so extreme that we never see the princess's face except in old news footage.
Here's the full review