Tuesday 18th January 2022

The Last King of Scotland (15)
Directed by: Kevin MacDonald
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

Despite its title, this film (based on the novel of the same name by Giles Foden) is not actually about the last King of Scotland. It's not about a King of Scotland at all, in fact – it's about Idi Amin, the third President of Uganda.

Forest Whitaker steals the show as Idi Amin
Forest Whitaker steals the show as Idi Amin

James McAvoy plays Nicholas Garrigan, the Scottish star of the film. He's a fresh-faced graduate who, having qualified as a doctor, decides to travel to an exotic part of the world and practice medicine, where he can really "make a difference". He therefore arrives in Uganda in 1971, just in time to witness General Amin leading a military coup and becoming president. Caught up in the excitement of the local people, Nicholas goes to a rally to see the new president himself, and ends up tending to Amin's injured hand.

Amin, it seems, is very fond of all things Scottish, from kilts to bagpipes to whisky, and that includes Dr Nicholas Garrigan. He takes the young doctor under his wing and offers him the position of personal physician to the president, and tells Nicholas he will get the chance to install a new health service – his chance to really "make a difference".

And here we get to the film's only flaw – its storyline is one we have seen many times before, (Wall Street and The Firm spring to mind instantly) where the protagonist falls in with some powerful figure and enjoys all the benefits associated with the position, before it inevitably all turns sour. And so it is here, as Nicholas discovers that Amin has been hiding his darker side (if genocide can be described as such) and as he gets in deeper he finds he cannot escape the country.

But while the plot may be predictable, the film is very well put together – it's enthralling, often funny and upbeat, lovely to look at and at times brutal. The best thing about The Last King of Scotland, however, is Forest Whitaker's portrayal of Idi Amin, which is absolutely out of this world. He is eminently watchable, completely believable and I would think a shoo-in for an Oscar. He brings alternately charm and menace to the character, keeping him at times a lovable, passionate but slightly mad leader and at other times a terrifying and paranoid lunatic. All I can really say is: this one is worth watching for the one outstanding performance alone.

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Length: 121 minutes
Certificate: 15
Official Site:
IMDB Link:
Release Date: 12th January 2007

Top Five Rating: 70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0%70.0% (70.0%)
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