Forest Whitaker won an Oscar from his first nomination for portraying African dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland.
Forest Whitaker sometimes has been called a supporting performance to James McAvoy's lead as the doctor who becomes the dictators personal doctor and adviser of sorts. I disagree, they are both lead to me, both are essential to the film's story, and both hold great sway in terms of control of the film. McAvoy has more scenes, but Whitaker has the same if not more important.
Forest Whitaker's performance here is particularly fascinating if you compare it to his actual personality. In actuality you would be hard pressed to find someone less soft spoken that Whitaker, but here he is almost unrecognizable. He absolutely brilliant as Amin who is a challenging role, since he is both a mad man, and an extremely charismatic man. Whitaker properly makes this very peculiar individual properly his larger than life self, without ever going over the top. His insanity he slowly shows throughout the film is perfect. He shows it as something that effects the man who simply has a position of power that has more than gone to his head. Whitaker use of his face is particularly compelling, in the way faces of the insanity of the man who claims he knows when exactly he is going to die, and believes people are always conspiring around him. His faces are extreme yet always natural, and effective.
He not only is mad man but a very charismatic man at the same exact time, even when he raves like a lunatic he remains an incredibly magnetic presence. He is especially strong in any scenes in which he makes a speech whether it is to his guests, the people of Uganda or the foreign press, Whitaker simply lights of the screen. Which is rather odd since his character is a cruel dictator, but Whitaker makes you believe Amin ability to control and manipulate others. He allows one to understand how he could sway others from not knowing who he really was. Every one of these scenes are simply amazing to watch since you can see how he hides the true evil of the man, with his warm smile, strong presence and humor and they alone make his performance deserving of his win, but he has yet scenes that are surprisingly scenes where he is even stronger.
These scenes are every scene in which he and McAvoy heavily interact. They simply are brilliant together, they work off each other incredibly well. I like how their relationship grows and changes throughout the film. From their very first scene where they interact, in which Amin is intrigued by the doctor, and comes to like him. I like how Whitaker shows pure excitement at the doctor at first, and how he shows an actual liking of the man, even though Whitaker always still suggests Amin's suspicious with Amin's odd outbursts at times. Also I like how Whitaker shows the way Amin uses the doctor, particularly in one scene where he convinces the doctor to tell him suspicious information about one of Amin's ministers. This is scene is astounding because he convinces the doctor almost without words to do this. Both actors make this scene believable despite the challenge of it. Their strongest scene together is their final one. Their final conversation is incredible, Whitaker is extremely chilling and McAvoy is properly defiant both actors make the relationship's pivotal moment, especially powerful. Whitaker's role is an incredible challenge and he meets and surpasses the challenge. His performance is one of tremendous power, and at the same time is an incredibly entertaining performance too, simply a great performance.