The Last King of Scotland

Kevin MacDonald

The Last King of Scotland
Directed by: Kevin MacDonald
(Fox Searchlight)
In The Last King of Scotland, the vain young doctor Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) heads to Uganda on a whim. He spins a globe and points randomly, then leaves his home in Scotland to launch himself into a country he hasn't learned about. It's 1971 and famed dictator Idi Amin (Forrest Whitaker) has just seized power of Uganda in a coup. Garrigan ends up becoming Scotland-loving Amin's personal physician and confidant. The movie's based on a novel of the same name by Giles Foden and both insert fictional creation Garrigan into the historical reality of Amin's regime. The audience sees Amin through Garrigan's eyes. Just like Garrigan, we're introduced to Amin's overwhelming charisma and his paranoid brutality. The result is an impressively nuanced depiction of Amin. Whitaker earned an Oscar for the role. His great performance is bolstered by director Kevin Macdonald's (and Foden's) decision to make Amin more than a one-note villain. Amin is depicted asking Garrigan for help, captivating journalists and leaving political rivals to be assassinated. The movie portrays Amin's rashness and ruthlessness, but it's thoughtful enough to also show us the jovial people-pleasing president, who briefly charmed a nation. We're left to reconcile the two.
Lindsay McCarney

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