The Last King of Scotland

Nicholas Garrigan, (James McAvoy), is a Scottish doctor who unwittingly becomes the personal physician to Ugandan President Idi Amin, (Forest Whitaker). Drawn to Amin’s magnetism and drive, Garrigan tries to ignore the injustices that Amin carries out ‘in the name of freedom’. When he witnesses Amin’s treachery first hand, however, Garrigan attempts to escape Amin’s evil despotic rule.
Idi Amin’s brutal regime is magnified with the use of the fictional character of Garrigan, who is in the frontline witnessing the atrocities that Amin hands out. Garrigan and Amin share a sense of national pride that draws them together, albeit both use different methods to express it. Entering Amin’s inner circle, he slowly unpeels the layers of psychotic paranoia that seems to drive his way of thinking. As any good orator, Amin knew how to stir up the pride in his people, charming them into his arms before he struck them down with violence. The pride that the Ugandan people had gave him power, but also eventually gave them the courage to overthrow his corrupt government.
The chaos and brutality is usually seen in the background, with the dynamics between the doctor and his powerful patient being the films’ centrepiece. As the tribal drums beat the Ugandan sounds, so too does Amin beat his opponents into submission with furious brute force. Kevin Macdonald’s direction raises the tension making the audience and characters wary that Amin may explode with the rage which is always under the surface.
Forest Whitaker’s portrayal is a thunderous performance of charm and delusion, encompassing the dark facets of the man. The jovial demeanour and deadly silences show the audience as to why Amin was so feared. Whitaker’s own facial features add greatly to Amin’s outward menace, with his lazy eye making him seem like a one eyed serpent ready to strike at any moment. James McAvoy as Garrigan expertly shows the initial idealism which slowly becomes undone when he becomes embroiled in Amins’ sinister domain. His determination to retrieve the humanity that he lost whilst under Amin’s influence is shown, with McAvoy infusing much sympathy as a man willing to do anything to get out.
This film exposes the extreme terror that Amin dished out being on the edge of madness for most of his reign. The mix of fact and fiction works as it provides the film with some heart amongst the carnage and personalises the feeling of despair the Ugandan people felt during the 1970s. The fact that Uganda survived his rule shows the strength of the people could never be broken.
Rating out of 10: 8

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