Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The Last King of Scotland (4½ Stars)

This is the story of a fictional doctor, Nicholas Garrigan, who worked in Uganda as the personal physician of President Idi Amin. The film doesn't specify the dates, but it's easy to work them out by comparing it with the historical events that are referenced. Dr. Nicholas Garrigan entered Uganda on January 24th, 1971, and he left the country on July 2nd, 1976.

Nicholas is a young Scotsman who graduates as a doctor in 1970. Unwilling to live the dull life of a village doctor like his father, he says he will go anywhere in the world to get away from him. Anywhere except Canada. So he ends up in Uganda, on the day before Idi Amin comes to power by a military coup. At first he works in a village hospital. Then, after being overwhelmed by Idi Amin's charisma at a public rally, he accepts a position as the president's personal doctor.

At first things go well. Then he begins to see that Idi Amin is far from a benevolent leader. Evidence mounts up that Idi Amin has been murdering his political opponents. Dr. Garrigan wants to leave Uganda, but when he expresses his wish his passport is stolen to keep him in the country.

This is a very good film. Forest Whitaker's performance as Idi Amin won him an Oscar in 2007. James McAvoy's performance as the naive young doctor shouldn't be underestimated either. It's a fascinating film that accurately captures the atmosphere in Uganda in the early 1970's.

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