In the early 1970s Nicholas Garrigan, a young semi-idealistic Scottish doctor, comes to Uganda to assist in a rural hospital. Once there he soon meets up with the new President, Idi Amin, who promises a golden age for the African nation. Garrigan hits it off immediately with the rabid Scotland fan, who soon offers him a senior position in the national health department and becomes one of Amin's closest advisers. However as the years pass, Garrigan cannot help but notice Amin's increasingly erratic behavior that grows beyond a legitimate fear of assassination into a murderous insanity that is driving Uganda into bloody ruin. Realizing his dire situation with the lunatic leader unwilling to let him go home, Garrigan must make some crucial decisions that could mean his death if the despot finds out.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
The Times journalist is played by Dr. Dick Stockley, a British doctor who lives and works in Kampala, Uganda. See more »
Idi Amin held the rank of General until 1975, then promoted himself to Field Marshal. Throughout the movie, he wears insignia of both these ranks at differing times, making it appear that he continually switched between them. On the 'working' uniform, he always appears as a General (crossed swords, pip and coat of arms). In his 'dress' uniform he always appears as a Field Marshal (crossed sword and baton enclosed in oak leaves). See more »
Afro Disco Beat
Performed by Tony Allen
Written by Tony Allen
Published by Planet Woo Sari
Represented by Eric Trosset
Licensed courtesy of Anthony Oladipo Allen See more »
The use of Garrigan is a strength and weakness but it is a good film thanks mainly to a terrific turn from Whitaker
The newly qualified Dr Nicholas Garrigan travels to Uganda to take up a post with a village mission. He arrives just after a coup puts Idi Amin in power of the country. During a visit by Amim to the village, Garrigan captures the President's attention by tending to a small injury to his hand and showing himself decisive and strong-willed. It is not long before the young Garrigan finds himself appointed as physician to the President and ensconced as one of his "closest advisors". However the initial charm shown by Amin gives way to a darker violent streak as Garrigan finds the superficial stability of the country and its leader is nothing of the sort.
Famous now for the performance that will deservedly win an Oscar in a few weeks time, this film actually doesn't have Amin as the "main" character despite him being the draw and the title character. Instead we actually spend a lot of time with Garrigan, his experiences and his problems. Of course I understand why this was the way because Garrigan is out narrative device a composite character who acts as our way into the inner circle of Amin and allows the audience to experience him as outsiders as well. This works well in doing this but it does also introduce problems, or at least one problem. This is the fact that, as the story goes on, we find ourselves more and more focused on Garrigan (who doesn't actually exist) rather than Amin or Uganda (who did and does exist respectively). I found this a bit irritating as it got worse because I had come to the film for Amin as, I suspect, many will have done.
Even with this though the film still works well and makes for an engaging piece. Macdonald's direction is good and his moving camera does give it the air of a documentary while still very much being a drama. Of course the thing that makes the film work is the central performance from Whitaker. The character of Amin allows him to play to his strengths and he delivers a convincingly unhinged turn, constantly menacing but also managing to have a child-like sense of fun at times and a terrifying tendency towards ruthlessness and violence. I have said before, he was brilliant in The Shield (making the whole season his own) and he is equally brilliant here. Alongside this it is no surprise that McAvoy is a bit weak by comparison. His character is not so convincing (a side effect of being a composite) and some of the narrative turns ask a lot of him he is still good and it is not his fault that he is in Whitaker's shadow. Washington has a small role but was pretty good in it even if her presence made me wonder why they felt they had to cast an American actress, likewise Anderson but I assume that they helped get funding so fair enough. McBurney is a bit too slimy and sinister and I wasn't sure what the film was trying to say. Audiences may also recognise Oyelowo from his recent high-profile roles in HBO's Five Days and BBC's controversial Shoot The Messenger.
Overall then not a perfect film but a pretty good one. The use of Garrigan is good at getting us into the story but it is a weakness that we stick with him as the focus. The performances are roundly good but of course it is another terrific turn from Whitaker that makes every scene he is in worth seeing.
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