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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'The Last King of Scotland': An Urgent Depiction of Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin's Reign of Tyranny

Movie poster for the film The Last King of Scotland starring Forest Whitaker and James McAvoy

The Last King of Scotland (2006) is an urgent and compelling depiction of Ugandan Dictator Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), told from the perspective of a fictionalized young Scottish doctor named Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy). Working at a Ugandan missionary clinic after graduating from medical school, Garrigan has a chance encounter with the autocratic Amin that proves to be transformative yet ultimately perilous.

Set in 1970, soon after Amin has overthrown president Milton Obote in a military coup d'état, the storyline follows Garrigan as he impresses the new premier with his resolute manner and is recruited to work as his personal physician. Swayed by the charismatic Amin and optimistic for the future of Uganda, Garrigan becomes immersed in the country's political and healthcare systems while simultaneously serving as Amin's personal confidante. Yet his growing affections for Kay (Kerry Washington), the youngest of Amin's three wives, engenders grave danger for the impetuous young doctor—just as the brutality of Amin's true nature begins to emerge.

Directed by Scottish filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void", The Mauritanian) and adapted from Giles Foden's titular novel, The Last King of Scotland is an absorbing and disquieting insider's take on one of the most ruthless tyrants of the past century. In his Academy Award-winning performance, Whitaker is absolutely stunning in transformation and delivery, embodying the capricious Amin in every word and gesture. A fascinating amalgamation of historical fact and fictional narrative, it's a vivid depiction of totalitarianism at an altogether pivotal point in world history.


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