The young Scottish doctor heads to Uganda for an adventure, and gets way more than he bargained for. Through luck and charisma, he gets the job of the president’s physician. With that comes a life of luxury, riches and women. Of course he has to wake up to the harsh reality of this beloved president at some point. Seems formulaic, right? almost like “The Firm”. However, this is a film carried by Whitaker’s excellent performance as the brutal but teddy bear like Idi Amin. It is also curious and very effective how the story is told from the POV of the young Dr. Nicholas Garrigan. You see what he sees, so for the bulk of the movie, Amin seems like a charismatic, short tempered, but not necessarily ‘evil’ leader. You almost do like him like Nicholas does. It makes it all the more effective when the brutality and dismemberment occur towards the end.
One thought on “The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald – 2006) A-”
I cannot agree with you more on Whitaker’s charisma and how it drives this film. I was given the book prior to the film’s release to video. I have to say that one can read the book, even after seeing the film, and get a richer experience without having anything spoiled. In many ways, all the film serves to do is to bring Amin’s personality to the screen, and for the joy of seeing Whitaker perform, it is a must see.
Yes, a cliche’ : While books are 99 percent of the time better than the films made from them, I want to underscore that this novel is worth visiting even if you have seen the film. In many cases, having seen a film can detract from the impact a novel can have. As an example, The English Patient if seen first on film, and then read in novel form, loses much of its secrets, and the reader can be left with a flat experience. Not so with The Last King of Scotland. The book offers a complexity in the character development of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan that the movie sadly treats with lackluster attention. When read in the novel, Garrigan’s nature when juxtaposed with an even more vicious rendering of Amin than screen can show, has a fascinating horror that is akin to Walter Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. Treat yourself and read the novel! it really is a different experience.