Last King of Scotland

Director: Kevin Macdonald
Genre: Drama/History/Thriller
Starring: Forest Whitaker (Idi Amin), James McAvoy (Nicholas Garrigan), Kerry Washington (Kay Amin), Gillian Anderson (Sarah Merrit), Simon McBurney (Nigel Stone), and David Oyelowo (Dr. Junju)
Plot: The story about Idi Amin’s atrocious regime.

“Charming, Magnetic & Murderous”

Even the tagline sounds chilling, and I was referring to “The Last King of Scotland”. No, this is not about William Wallace; this is story is about Idi Amin, an Ugandan military leader who has seized power and ruled Uganda from 1971-1979 through dictatorship.

For political movie fans, this movie is a must-watch since Hotel Rwanda as the story combines effective amalgamation of Idi Amin’s real-life story with Dr. Garrigan, a fictional character in the movie.

Dr.Garrigan was portrayed as a promiscuous young Scottish doctor who travelled to Uganda in search of adventure and served in a missionary aid for a short-term.

His cocky, naive and occasionally pompous Scottish pride landed him a job as a chief physician to his excellency after a brief treatment to Idi Amin who was involved in an accident with a buffalo. His courage by using Idi Amin’s gun to gun down the half-dying buffalo amazes him, and thus a friendship was forged at that moment.

Dr.Garrigan quit his missionary post, and moved to the capital upon accepting Idi Amin’s offer. His life changed from a boring lifeless country doctor to an urban party freak. His lifestyle was continuously showered with posh and luxurious VIP treatment in the presidential palace and eventually earned him a reputation of one of Idi Amin most trusted aide and adviser.

Unknowledgeable about Ugandan political atmosphere, Dr.Garrigan soon realise that his boss has a sinister dark side that eventually makes him understand that he was in a sleeping lion’s den. His perception grew stronger when he leaked out to Idi about his minister’s secret meeting with a foreign man in the club that leads to the death of that minister himself.


The Last King of Scotland – The official trailer

His brief acquaintance with a British High Commission officer makes everything much clearer when he was presented with photos of Idi Amin’s atrocities against his political enemies. Shocked and disbelief, he sought help to smuggle him out of the country. He was offered a safe passage out only if he willing to feed the British intelligence details about Idi Amin’s human rights abuse. Being trapped in the middle, Dr. Garrigan soon accepted the offer, not only feeding intelligence but also to assassinate the president by poisoning him.

At the same time his fling with Kay, Idi’s third wife soon turned to a romp and an affair makes things much complicated when Kay became pregnant. Fear of Idi knowing this affair, Dr. Garrigan plan to carry out an operation to abort the baby. It was too late then when Kay was murdered by Idi’s henchmen by dismembering her.

Idi learned about the plot to poison him, and his men soon caught Dr.Garrigan and tortured him in the airport when he was treating detainees of an Air France plane hijack by the Palestinian terrorist who were allies to Idi Amin. Dr. Garrigan’s colleague then freed him from the torture room and planned a getaway along with the hijacked detainees. He eventually boarded the plane and leave Uganda for good.

The show ended with some footage of the real Idi Amin during his lifetime.

Forest Whittaker was excellent as he played effectively as Idi Amin. He mastered not only the Swahilian accent but also undergone a tedious method acting practise to actually mastering the character of Idi Amin in his lifetime. For ya’ll who doesn’t know Forest Whittaker might think he was an African extra. He (as Idi) managed to come out with few memorable quotes too such as;

“You have offended your father” – When Idi learnt about the poison plot and about to torture Dr. Garrigan in the airport.

“I may wear the uniform of a general, but in my heart I am a simple man. I am you!” and “I know who you are and what you are. I am you!”– When addressing the crowd prior to his coup success overthrowing Obote (incumbent president before the coup).

“Look at this – the British newspapers say I am a madman. The American newspapers say I am a cannibal. These are lies.” – When foreign journalist portray Idi as a monstrous person.

“A man who shows fear… he is weak, and he is a slave.” – When Dr.Gariggan treated Idi’s bloated stomach.

As for interesting facts about the movie, there are few actual scene recreation such as;

Having few wives (cos he is Muslim) as well as mistresses didn’t stop Idi portraying his playboy nature. Also closely characterise him is his comedic buffoon with cheeky sometimes sarcastic sense of humour. When he feels threatened, he throws his tantrum to absolutely anyone even to his trusted aide. Also his passion for cars, and boxing was real. He was in fact a boxer before he came to power. Seeing Forest acting those scenes is like seeing the real Idi rolling in action!

The plane hijack – it was a real event when two Palestinian terrorist with two Red Army terrorist hijacked the Air France plane and was en routed to Entebbe Airport, Uganda. Uganda, under Idi’s rule was a close ally of Palestine since Idi himself is a Muslim and a true supporter of Palestinian resistance.

Since the majority of the passengers were Israelis, Israeli government soon came to a decision where they will invade Ugandan sovereignty in order to rescue its nationals. The commando (Sayeret Matkal) operation was known as Operation Entebbe aka Operation Thunderolt aka Operation Yonatan (name posthumously after the death of its squad leader, Yonatan (Jonathan) Netanyahu in the gun battle). The aftermath of the rescue operation leaving 45 deaths on the Ugandan side, 6 hijackers, 5 on the hostages and one on the Israeli commando’s side.


The real Idi Amin

The writer cleverly includes this hijack event so that Dr.Gariggan can be safely smuggled out from the country. The fictional part does blend in well and make you want to believe that it was seemingly real.

This is a must watch movie and you gotta see Forest roll as Idi, erm..or Idi as Forest? The Last King of Scotland is definitely an exciting and entertaining African-set thriller. Talkin’ about African & political flick, Blood Diamond is definitely my next.

My rating: