Argo (2012) vs. The Last King of Scotland (2006): Who Has The Tensest Plane Boarding Scene?

Every good movie is different. Has the special something that makes the movie stand out. However, sometimes, the movies, while being completely different, can share weird similarities.

One example of this is Argo (2012) and The Last King of Scotland (2006) both ending with scenes of the main characters boarding planes, hoping not to be caught. I mean, that’s a weirdly specific similarity for two movies, that are not at all similar, to have. But, who did it better?

For context:

Argo is a movie about the real-life story a CIA agent (Ben Affleck) going under cover as a film producer to sneak into Iran to rescue six Americans during the 1979 hostage crisis. Spoilers, but the movie ends with a tense scene of Ben Affleck and his team trying to get the six Americans on board a plane heading out of the country.

The Last King of Scotland is a historical fiction movie about a Scottish doctor (James McAvoy) who travels to Uganda to help at a relief hospital, only to end up befriending and being hired to be the personal physician of the country’s new president Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). McAvoy’s character at first enjoys the position and all the luxury’s that comes with it, only to eventually fall out of favor with the President and become the focus of his paranoia. At the end of the movie, McAvoy is getting tortured by Amin’s men and, with the help of a fellow doctor, manages to escape and sneak onto a passenger plane to escape the country.

The details and context are different. But, boiled down to its most basic parts, they are the same. The protagonists sneak onto a plane and if they get caught, they will die.

Makes for a pretty tense climax, right? So, who did it better?

First thing to consider, is the real life context, with two ways to look at it. With Argo the event being shown really happened, so, if you know anything about the Iran hostage crisis, you know that the characters featured all make it out alive. So, there might be less tension. Where as in The Last King of Scotland, McAvoy’s character is completely fictional, so if the filmmakers wanted him to get caught and die, it’s entirely possible, creating less tension. But, on the other hand, Argo is about real people, which to some people can make the tension more real.

Another thing to consider is, in Argo the plane boarding scene was much more involved. With everyone having cover identities and needing everything to go exactly right with no room for error. But, in The Last King of Scotland, McAvoy’s is being chased almost from the beginning of the scene. So, it is more high paced tension as the audience waits to see if the plane will manage to take off. So, for this point, it comes down to what you consider to be tenser. A more slow, methodical tension (Argo) or a higher intensity tension (The Last King of Scotland).

A final thing to consider is the characters themselves. In Argo, the plane boarding scene follows people who have done nothing wrong. It’s six Americans who got caught in the middle of a revolution and have been narrowly avoiding death for months and the CIA agents trying to rescue them. Pretty sympathetic, I’d say. Meanwhile, McAvoy’s character in The Last King of Scotland, is less sympathetic. Not, so unsympathetic that you want him to die but he certainly isn’t blameless. Throughout the movie he frequently and consistently makes the wrong choices that gets him deeper and deeper in danger and feeds into the President’s paranoia, until it is too late and he is trapped in the country. So, it definitely feels more like the consequences of his own actions.

Personally, I find Argo’s more tense, because it’s more historically accurate, the slow burn of the tension, and the more sympathetic characters involved. But, it really is subjective and both scenes are done really well.

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