That said, when necessary, The Last King of Scotland does not hide the barbarity of Idi Amin. There are precisely two scenes in this movie that are not for the squeamish, and if they're the only visual takeaways of the utter depravity and bloodshed that Amin visited upon Uganda, then Kevin Macdonald's mission is accomplished.
The real story here is Forrest Whitaker, who simply owns this movie. While Avoy's Garrigan basks in Amin's glow, and then quakes in Amin's shadow, Whitaker is a hulking, unstable mass of evil and murder. There are only a couple of times where Amin flies off the handle, but Whitaker's performance is a study in cold, calculated and silent malice. When Garrigan nervously approaches Amin with news of a possible traitor in the cabinet, Amin doesn't launch into a rage. He doesn't even smile. He stares right back at Garrigan, and you have to wonder what's behind those eyes. It could be emptiness; it could be a blind, blistering hatred; it could be a plan for death and revenge; it could be sheer madness. Whitaker does it all. Much like Daniel Day-Lewis' William Cutting in The Gangs of New York, you're never quite sure what Amin will do next.
The Last King of Scotland works much better as a character study of Idi Amin than it does as a history lesson of what he did to Uganda. Maybe that was its aim. Ultimately, that's where the movie falls short; instead of letting the history speak, the movie speaks instead. It feels like the story of Amin and Uganda (and Forrest Whitaker's acting) is bursting at the seams, chomping at the bit, but Macdonald always holds it back. Sometimes it works, and Whitaker's twenty-three awards for the role (including Academy Award for Best Actor) speak volumes. But when there are so many stories that could have been told of what His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda In Particular (yes, that was his real title) did to Uganda, I can't help but feel The Last King of Scotland only chipped the tip of a very large iceberg.