Political Film Society - The Last King of Scotland

PFS Film Review
The Last King of Scotland


The Last King of ScotlandBased on the 1998 novel by Giles Foden, an extraordinary story of a mythical young Scottish physician in The Last King of Scotland begins in Scotland, where idealistic young Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (played by James McAvoy) decides in 1970 to escape from his family for an adventure abroad. He spins a globe in his room with his eyes closed; when the globe stops, his finger points to Uganda. In 1971, he flies there and takes a bus to a remote village where he joins Dr. Merrit (played by Adam Kotz) and his wife (played by Gillian Anderson) in caring for villagers. While en route on the bus, he sees a military convoy, as he has arrived on the day when Idi Amin (played by Forrest Whitaker) comes to power. After settling into his new medical post, Amin comes to the village for a rally. Afterward, Amin sprains his right hand in an auto accident, and Garrigan is sought to attend to the problem. Upon returning to the capital, Kampala, he Amin decides to make Garrigan his personal physician, so he summons Garrigan from the province. At first Garrigan refuses out of his sense of duty to the villagers, but Amin prevails by providing him a taste of Ugandan hospitality—a banquet feast with lavish entertainment. Amin fires the head of the government hospital to make way for Garrigan, but while touring the campus of the hospital Nigel Stone (played by Simon McBurney), a British diplomat who was involved in enabling Amin to seize power from the communist-leaning Milton Obote, warns him of danger. Naïve, Garrigan brushes off the warning, having been charmed by Amin, who is so fascinated by brave Scottish soldiers that he names two of his sons with Scottish names, listens to Scottish music, wears a kilt on one occasion, and considers himself to be a King of Scotland who one day might even liberate Scotland from English rule. One day, gunshots are heard at a distance; the next day, a newspaper notes that Obote’s forces tried to liberate his supporters from the government prison. Garrigan seeks an explanation, but Amin does not oblige. On another day, Garrigan is transporting Amin when an ambush appears. Although Garrigan saves Amin’s life by driving the car to safety, he gets to view the brutal manner in which Amin handles those who were involved in the ambush. More brutality comes to light as time goes on. When Amin orders all 200,000 Indians out of the country, Amin ignores Garrigan’s warning that the country’s economy will collapse and world opinion will turn again him. In time, Garrigan has had enough, but Amin will not let him leave the country. He drives to the British embassy, but Stone will not provide safe conduct out of the country unless Garrigan kills Amin. When Garrigan slips poison pills to Amin, his misdeed is caught, so he is strung up by his nipples to die. Meanwhile, Palestinians have hijacked an airplane from Israel to Uganda. Amin agrees to allow non-Israelis to leave the country. Dr. Junju (played by David Oyelowo), a Ugandan physician who has been working closely with Garrigan, then releases him so that he can board the plane and tell the world the truth about Idi Amin. Directed by Kevin Macdonald, titles at the end of the film reveal that an Israeli raid liberated the hijacked Israelis, some 300,000 Ugandans died during the reign of Idi Amin, which ended in 1979, and Amin died in Saudi Arabia during 2003. As a film portraying the excesses of Idi Amin, the Political Film Society has nominated The Last King of Scotland as best film of 2006 in the category of human rights. MH

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