The Last King of Scotland is a potent story of the relationship between a young, naive, idealistic Scottish doctor working in Uganda and his relationship with Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), the dictator who ruled Uganda for eight years following a military coup.
Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) is a young, newly graduated medical doctor who can’t stand the thought of working in his father’s country practice in Scotland. He closes his eyes, spins a globe of the earth, and decides to go to the first place his finger lands on. He stops the globe and Canada and, after a brief moment, decides he will spin it again. The second time his finger lands on Uganda -- and that is where he heads.
He arrives in Uganda bright-eyed and idealistic, wishing to make a difference. He starts working for Dr Merrit (Adam Kotz) and his wife, Sarah (Gillian Anderson). But a chance encounter with Idi Amin who is injured in a vehicle accident endears him to Amin who invites Nicholas to be his personal doctor.
All is well for a while. But soon Nicholas begins to realise what Amin is really like and becomes increasingly disturbed by evidence of genocide and other atrocities. Eventually, he decides he needs to leave. But Amin has other plans for Nicholas.
The Last King of Scotland is based on real events and both McAvoy (whose character is fictional) and Whitaker handle their roles with skill and believability. But this movie is Whitaker’s all the way. His portrayal of Amin is a virtuoso performance. It’s a great story and there are some moments of real tension, particularly as Garrigan’s conscience begins to awaken as Amin’s true character is gradually revealed. There is true danger when charisma and evil reside in the same person - particularly when relating to those who are innocent.
My Rating: **** (out of 5)
’Unlike Sean Penn’s demagogue in "All the King’s Men," you’re able to forget that Whitaker is acting. He embodies the role. When clips of the real Amin are shown at the end, it’s almost shocking to realize the extent to which Whitaker has become him.’ - Ruthe Stein/San Francisco Chronicle
’The Last King of Scotland joins the ranks of nightmarish innocents-abroad movies, from "Midnight Express" to "Hostel," where the disillusioned hero fights to return to civility.’ - Wesley Morris/Boston Globe
Some strong violence and gruesome images, sexual content and language