The Last King Of Scotland – charming, magnetic, murderous

The story of the reign of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin from the point of view of his physician.

Shortly after his graduation, Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) decides to leave the shadow of his father in Scotland and travel the world. He ends up in Uganda, working for a small rural hospital. One day he goes to a rally led by the new Ugandan president, Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), after which a favour of Nicholas is called upon by Amin himself. Not long after this, Nicholas finds himself working as the president’s closest advisor, but when his eyes are opened to the kinds of atrocities taking place under Amin’s rule, he soon wants a way out. Of course, by then, it’s too late for a clean break.

The Last King Of Scotland is loosely based on the experiences of Dr. Bob Astle during his time as Amin’s personal doctor. Although I’m not entirely sure of how much actually happened, I must admit the writing was very good, and the story that took place within the film – whether 100% true or not – had me hooked from beginning to end. I very much enjoyed the film and found the whole concept of what went on in Uganda in the 1970s to be very interesting, although I’m not certain as to whether that was just down to the fact that I am a history student.

Not only was the writing good, the acting was magnificent. McAvoy is not someone whose work I have seen a lot of, so I didn’t really know what to expect from him. However, he was tremendous as the doctor with no way out. Watching him, you could just sense the desperation as he constantly got the heightened realisation of just what Amin’s regime really consisted of. This also emphasised the naïvety he had upon his arrival in Uganda and his first time seeing Amin in public. McAvoy’s performance showed just how something like this can change a person, which I believe may have been one of the deeper messages hidden within the film.

And then there was Whitaker as Amin himself. Superb! That really is all there is to it. At the end of the film, footage of Amin is shown, and at a quick glance, you wouldn’t be able to tell the two apart. Physically, they were almost identical, but Whitaker also had spend the duration of the film speaking with a Ugandan accent which was terrific, especially in scenes where tempers became frayed. The man was terrifying, and at the end of the film you are left in no doubt of how he got an Oscar for his portrayal of the dictator.

Now, I will say that The Last King Of Scotland is probably not a film you sit and watch with your mates in the hope of lifting spirits on a Friday night. It is heavy viewing that even I found to be hard to watch at some points towards the end. However, if you can stomach it, watch it. It really is a very good film, and a lot of work went into perfecting characters. You really would be missing out, no exaggeration at all.


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Kira Comerford

Film and TV lover with hopes to one day make my own projects for everyone to enjoy. Until then, I'm giving my thoughts on what I watch for inspiration.

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