The Last King of Scotland (2006)



Director:  Kevin Macdonald.

Starring:  Forest Whitaker (Idi Amin), James McAvoy (Nicholas Garrigan), Kerry Washington (Kay Amin), Gillian Anderson (Sarah Merrit), Simon McBurney (Nigel Stone), David Oyelowo (Dr. Junju), Abby Mukiibi Nkaaga (Masanga), Adam Kotz (Dr. Merrit), Barbara Rafferty (Mrs. Garrigan), David Ashton (Dr. Garrigan, senior), Giles Foden (British Journalist #1), Andy Williams (British Journalist #2), Martina Amati (Italian Journalist), Peter Salmon (White Businessman), Michael Wawuyo (Air Force Commander).

a Scottish doctor is seduced by the power provided by the Ugandan monster Idi Amin


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

Nicholas Garrigan graduates from medical school in Scotland and with a group of his colleagues jumps into the lake by the school.  His parents are very proud of him.  His father expects him to come into his family medical practice with him, but Nicholas wants to see a different part of the world.  He spins a world globe and stops it with his finger.  His first hit is Canada, but he doesn't want to go there.  So he spins again and stops at Uganda.  So he goes to Uganda where he starts to work with Dr. Merrit and his wife Sarah Merrit helping the poor of Uganda with medical help. 

Soon Nicholas is falling in love with Sarah and tryies to make love to her.  She is tempted, but will not give in to Nicholas.  Nicholas asks her to accompany him to see the new leader of Uganda,Gen. Idi Amin.  Sarah doesn't really want to go.  She has seen bad leaders before.  But she gives into Nicholas and goes with him.  Nicholas is really taken with the new leader, while Sarah tries to bring him back to reality.  But he is not listening to her. 

On the way back home, a jeep with three soldiers drives in front of their vehicle and stops them.  They want Dr. Garrigan to follow them.  Idi Amin has been hurt in a car accident; they hit a water buffalo. When they arrive at the accident sight, Nicholas hurries over to Amin and starts to work on him.  Amin has only strained his left hand.  The doctor wraps the leader's hand.  When Amin learns that the doctor is Scottish, he becomes absolutely ecstatic.  Amin loves Scotland because they stood up to the English for so long and at time even defeated them militarily.  Later Amin asks Nicholas to be his personal doctor.  Nicholas says he has to honor his commitment to Dr. Merrit.  But Amin starts to seduce Nicholas with the possibility of real power in Uganda.  Nicholas gives in to the temptation and agrees to be Amin's personal physician.  Amin is very happy. 

Nicholas starts to work at Amin's hospital, but not at the bottom.  The very young doctor is put in charge of the hospital.  Soon, Amin makes Nicholas a close adviser.  With him there is a Ugandan official who is also a close adviser to Amin. 

Nicholas is contacted by a British agent who wants Nicholas to help the British keep track of Amin.  Nicholas wants nothing to do with the man.  He has been too seduced by power to want to help his own country.   When Nicholas sees his co-close adviser talking with a British agent, he mentions this to Amin, suggesting that the leader speak to his other close adviser.  But soon the close adviser goes missing.  The British agent tells Nicholas about the many people who have suddenly just disappeared in Uganda, including the missing close adviser. Nicholas is very upset about the missing close adviser and blames himself for the man's fate.  He tells Amin that he wants to return to Scotland and his father.  But Amin will not hear of it.  He tells Nicholas simply that he cannot go home; he is too needed in Uganda.  (They even yank his passport.)

Nicholas seeks out the British agent to ask for his help.  The agent, however, is contemptuous of Nicholas.  He shows him pictures of some of the many mass killings order by Amin.  This is an aspect of Amin that Nicholas avoided seeing.  The agent tells Nicholas that he must help the British kill Amin.  But Nicholas won't do it.  He goes his own way to take his chances with Amin. 

Nicholas helped the son of Kay Amin, Amin's third wife, with his epilepsy.  The two start to become close and soon Nicholas is sleeping with Kay.  They do everything they can to keep the affair secret.  But then Kay becomes pregnant with Nicholas's child.  She has to get an abortion, but it is too risky to have it done at Amin's hospital.  Nicholas decides finally to do the abortion himself, but he is held back by Amin and Kay goes to a nearby village for the abortion.  Released by Amin, Nicholas tries to reach Kay, but it is too late.  She has gone to the village.  Nicholas does not find her there and goes to the hospital to find Kay.  But it is really too late.  He finds her dead and mutilated body in the hospital morgue.  Of course, he is devastated and very afraid. 

Nicholas decides to give Amin poison instead of medical pills.  The head of security is suspicious of Nicholas and he takes the pills. 

The Palestinians hijacke an airplane with many Israeli passengers and fly it to Uganda.  Amin feels like a real big-shot now because the whole world is watching what he will do.  He decides to let the non-Israelis take a flight out of Uganda, but the Israelis must stay.  He says they are negotiating with the Israeli government. 

The head of security, still suspicious of Nicholas, decides to give two of the "medical pills" Nicholas gave to Amin to one of the soldiers at the airport.  Nicholas intervenes at the last second and makes the soldier spit out the pills.  Now Nicholas is in big trouble.  He is taken to a deserted room and thrown to the floor.  Amin comes in and tells him that he knows all about him and Kay.  He asks Nicholas how could he do such a thing to him.  Amin decides to have his body guards lift up the body of Nicholas and suspend it from two meat hooks stuck through the skin of his chest.  Amin leaves.  Later the body guards take a break in their torture of Nicholas leaving him by himself. 

A Ugandan doctor who is a colleague of Nicholas intervenes, releases Nicholas and patches him up.  He then tells Nicholas that if he walks fast enough he can join the non-Israeli hostages as they board the airplane that will take them out of Uganda.  The Scottish doctor is able to catch up with them. 

The body guards return to their dirty duty only to find the doctor missing.  They quickly realize that his colleague helped him escape.  They rush to tell Amin and grab Nicholas's colleague.  They try to stop Nicholas from getting away on the airplane, but they are too late.  They then shoot the doctor who saved Nicholas in the head with a pistol.  Nicholas gets away successfully. 

Amin is finally overthrown by the Kenyan army, but not before he killed 300,000 Ugandans.  Saudi Arabia gives the mass murderer exile in their country and that is where Amin died. 


Very good movie.  It is less about Amin and mostly about Dr. Garrigan who is so seduced by power that he fails or refuses to see the real Amin, the murderer Amin, the genocidal Amin.  He is too busy enjoying his undeservedly high position in Uganda.  Another vice of Garrigan's is that he likes to pursue married women, first the married wife of Dr. Merrit and then the third wife of Amin himself.  Talk about playing with fire.  Garrigan puts his own life and the life of Amin's third wife in great danger.  But again, he is too blinded by status and power.   Garrigan sold his soul to become a powerful man under the murderer Amin.  When the doctor finally wakes up, he is deep in serious trouble  -- trouble that could mean his own death in Uganda. 

Forest Whitaker was just great as Idi Amin.  He played excellently both sides of Amin:  the affable, charming and funny "nice" Amin and the sadistic, genocidal Amin.  James McAvoy as Dr. Nicholas Garrigan was also very good. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

See  Rise and Fall of Idi Amin (1981)



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