The Last King of Scotland (2006)
Based on the events of the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin's regime as seen by his personal physician during the 1970s.
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.
- Scotland 1970. The sky is cloudy and stark grey and a group of newly graduated students jump into the lake to celebrate. Newly minted doctor Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) is having dinner with his mother (Barbara Rafferty) and father (David Ashton), also a doctor. It is a drab affair and the father assumes Nicholas will join the family practice. We are left with an impression that Nicholas's father is a controlling man.
In his room, Nicholas spins a globe promising himself "first place you land you go first place you land you go." Shutting his eyes, he jabs the spinning globe. Opening his eyes he sees that his finger has landed on Canada. Thinking about it for a moment or two, he spins the globe again and this time his finger lands on Uganda.
Credits roll as we are in Uganda. It is bright, sunny, lush, and full of activities and life. Nicholas is riding the bus and becomes friendly with a young woman . A line of military vehicles and tanks pass the bus on their way to a military coup to overthrow president Obote. Nicholas is completely clueless and the young woman assures Nicholas they are safe and it will be a great time for Uganda now that Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker) will be president. Nicholas and the young woman have sex in her home.
Nicholas arrives at his destination and meets Sarah (Gillian Anderson), the pretty wife of Dr. Merrit (Adam Kotz) whom he will be working for in a rural clinic. Merrit is a dedicated doctor, a "good man" who frequently leaves his wife and Nicholas alone in the clinic while he attends emergency cases several miles away. Nicholas offers to accompany Merrit or attend to an emergency case himself but Merrit dismissively tells him to stay at the clinic. Nicholas is disappointed with his latest 'father figure'. Sarah has a world-weariness about her.
Though 80% of the villagers prefer their witch doctors, Nicholas still has his hands full with treatments and inoculations. While playing soccer with the village children, he hears that Amin will be giving a speech nearby and convinces Sarah to attend the rally with him. The two really stand out in the rally as they are the only white people there. Listening to Amin orating to a crowd of Ugandans, Nicholas is deeply impressed and enjoys the high spiritedness around him. Amin promises a reign of peace, prosperity, public health care and other visionary advancements. Nicholas sees Amin as the rest of the world first sees him; a charismatic and entertaining figure who was greeted with enthusiasm by his people and who seemed to have their interests at heart.
Driving back to the clinic Sarah cynically said the Ugandans gave the same party to Obote before throwing him out. Nicholas thinks Sarah should give the man a chance to do his job before criticizing him. They are interrupted by terrified soldiers begging them to come treat Amin who has been in an accident. The scared soldier is our first clue of Amin's true character.
The presidential motorcade has collided with a cow and Amin is sure that his hand is broken. Nicholas quickly determines that the injury is just a sprain and works to bandage Amin's hand. Unable to concentrate on his bandaging on account of the dying cow's incessant bellowing, Nicholas impulsively grabs a pistol sitting on the car and shoots the cow, putting it out of its misery. With 10 machine guns immediately trained on him, Nicholas stammers an apology and returns the gun to a menacing Amin who demands to know if Nicholas is British. Nicholas clarifies that he is Scottish and shows his emblem tee shirt under his first shirt. Amin's behavior immediately does a 180 degree turn and praises the Scottish culture and people, especially their historical warriors. Nicholas is confused but charmed by this man who seems to take a genuine interest in him. Amin asks for Nicholas's tee shirt for his son, Campbell and the two men exchange shirts. Amin's military shirt sits like an oversize coat on Nicholas.
Later that night Nicholas invites Sarah for drinks on the porch. Knowing full well of Nicholas's intention, Sarah confides that as a wife of a "good man" she is often unnoticed and undervalued. Nicholas is empathetic as his own father is a "good man". Nicholas kisses her; Sarah quickly comes to her senses and leaves Nicholas alone. The next day the Ugandan Health Minister, who is Amin's #1 adviser, arrives to bring Nicholas to Amin in the presidential limousine. Thinking that the hypochondriac Amin just wants him to re-tie the bandages, Nicholas promises Sarah that he will return soon and is whisked away to the bustling capital, an active modern city and a far cry from the dilapidated village Nicholas is working in.
Nicholas meets Amin and is taken back by the offer to be his personal physician. In an example where Amin's craziness seems benign at first he tells Nicholas that he has already dreamed the date of his own death. "I know exactly when I'm going to die so you do not need to worry about making a mistake". Nicholas turns down the job offer twice and Amin guesses that Nicholas has an infatuation with a married woman back in the village. He promises to take Nicholas back to the village first thing in the morning but first he must attend tonight's state dinner. Since Nicholas does not have a suit Amin sends him to a tailor.
Measured for a suit by Asian tailors (they are either Indian or Pakistanis), Nicholas worries about the cost and the tailor assures him it is covered by the president's account. Overhearing this is a British diplomat, Stone. Outside the tailor shop Nicholas hears a commotion and sees a man being chased by Amin's men, who catch the man and stuff him into the trunk of their car. Amin's men are hunting down suspected Obote supporters. Stone praises Amin's "firm hand" - after all, he trained among Scottish soldiers with the King's African Rifles. Stone says Amin is one of their own.
The state dinner is a lavish affair and Nicholas is introduced to Amin's wives. Wife #1 has given Amin 5 children and wife #2 has given Amin 3 children. The third wife is simply introduced as Kay. Kay tersely thanks Nicholas for the tee shirt for her son Campell, it is her way of saying she has given Amin a child as well. Amin makes a rousing speech starting with stories of Greeks stealing philosophies and Arabs stealing medicine knowledge from Africa and claiming them as their own. He says Uganda will be an independent and great African country and, please enjoy the food as he humorously promises that it contains no human flesh. Nicholas meets Stone again and Stone remarks that it is nice to have another Englishman around. Nicholas peevishly clarifies that he is a Scotsman. Amin's fondness for Nicholas is obvious and the British diplomats tease Nicholas that Amin has "clasped you to his bosom".
Nicholas is woken in the middle of the night by the frantic servant and summoned to Amin's bedroom. Amin is lying in bed in pain, sure he has been poisoned. Nicholas palpates the stomach and notice glasses of beer and aspirin on the night stand. He finds a baseball bat, presses it against Amin's stomach and a large amount of gas is released. Amin immediately feels better and the Health Minister, who was watching the entire scene, leaves. Amin is ashamed and upset that Nicholas has seen him in his greatest weakness; fear and paranoia. Nicholas assures confidentiality due to the doctor's oath. Amin opens up a bit to Nicholas with stories from his childhood while the soundtrack tells us that Nicholas has been unwittingly trapped.
Some time later Nicholas calls Sarah to apologize for accepting Amin's offer. In the background Amin is playing with his numerous children. Nicholas is given a swanky apartment in the immaculate presidential compound and his job is set up in the Presidential Hospital where he meets his predecessor, Dr. Junju. At the hospital he runs into Stone again who wants to use Nicholas as a spy due to his exceptional access to Amin. Nicholas rebuffs Stone's offer, nonetheless Stone cautions him to "keep in touch."
Nicholas enjoys the benefits of being in Amin's inner circle and Amin takes him everywhere except outside Uganda. Due to their great physical differences, Nicholas looks something like Amin's pet or trophy. Very soon Nicholas is more than Amin's personal physician but also his most trusted advisor, something Amin says many times in front of senior officers. One day Amin tells Nicholas to attend a meeting in his place as he has to go to Libya at the last minute. Nicholas arrives at the meeting and introduces himself. The attendees are surprised that Nicholas is a doctor and Nicholas is surprised to learn the attendees are important contractors from the foreign consulates. The meeting is to bid for construction contracts.
Dressed in Islamic garbs, Amin examines the model for the new building and is pleased with the design Nicholas has chosen. Praising Nicholas's good taste, Amin tells the Health Minister he has no sense of style. The Health Minister simply stares at Amin. Amin's pleasant mood turns sour and he sends the Health Minister away. Amin asks Nicholas if he thought the Health Minister looked at Amin strangely. Nicholas says no.
While examining X-ray pictures, Nicholas and Junju hear a series of explosions. Rushing to the hospital roof they see columns of smoke rising in the distant hills where political prisoners are held in a prison. Gunfire can be heard. A messenger comes running looking for Nicholas, saying that the President's son is sick. Nicholas is taken to a house and finds a distressed Kay hovering over a boy in the midst of a seizure. Nicholas assumes that the boy is Campbell but Kay says he is Mackenzie. It is clear Nicholas never heard of or seen Mackenzie before despite being the family's physician, and it is clearer that Kay and the servants have no idea Mackenzie's condition is called epilepsy. Nicholas wants to take Mackenzie to the hospital but Kay begs Nicholas not to, as she and her son are banished from the palace. Kay says Amin regards her as a "bad omen" wife because of Mackenzie's condition and they cannot live in the palace with the other families. Nicholas gives Mackenzie a shot to calm the seizure and then puts him to bed. Nicholas finds it ridiculous that Mackenzie does not have access to medical attention and makes an appointment for McKenzie at the hospital. Kay looks at Nicholas differently this time.
Amin is hosting a state event and he is dressed in Scottish garb, kilt and all. Scottish folk songs are sung in African arrangements. During the ceremony Kay and Nicholas exchange glances; Amin notices this. The following morning Nicholas is woken early by Amin. To thank Nicholas for helping his epileptic son Amin gives him a brand new silver Mercedes convertible. Nicholas is beyond thrilled and Amin wants Nicholas to drive him to the airport. Nicholas returns to his apartment to change only to see that Amin has followed him into his room. Realizing Amin is not going to leave, Nicholas quickly changes his clothes and asks about the explosions and gunfire heard coming from the hills. Amin says his men held off Obete's men at the prison and quickly changes the subject.
Driving together to the airport following the presidential limousine, Amin tells Nicholas that his epileptic son has all the material comfort he needs. Nicholas argues that exiling the boy denies him treatment and a father's attention. Amin counters that Nicholas has never been poor. Their argument is interrupted by trucks of assassins targeting the presidential limousine. Nicholas manages to drive Amin out of harm's way.
Once secured and surrounded by military men, Amin freaks out and repeats to Nicholas that he cannot die because he saw it in his dream. Amin continues to rant and vent about traitors while Nicholas is silent and shell shocked. Amin begins screaming for his number #1 advisor, the Health Minister, and belittles Nicholas for not knowing where he is. A solider comes to Amin to tell him some of the assassins are caught. Amin brings Nicholas with him to see the captured assassins who are being tortured. While Amin screams and rants at the prisoners, Nicholas looks down and notices there is blood on his hand.
Nicholas is shaken by the recent events and goes to a Holiday Inn lounge to unwind and calm down. There he sees the Health Minister talking to a white man in a secretive manner. Some time later Nicholas is in Amin's office having him sign papers for supplies for the hospital. As he is leaving, Amin calls Nicholas back and asks him what is on his mind as it is obvious Nicholas is distracted. Nicholas admits he saw the Health Minister at the Holiday Inn lounge talking to a strange white man. It's probably nothing but perhaps Amin should talk to the Health Minister. Nicholas reiterates it is likely "nothing."
While lounging in the pool in presidential compound, Nicholas sees Kay and MacKenzie playing in the pool with the rest of the family. Kay tells Nicholas that Mackenzie is doing much better now that he is allowed to return to the palace and play with his brothers. Kay seems happy for the first time and looks at Nicholas fondly. While Nicholas is admiring Kay, Stone arrives and tells Nicholas that people are disappearing in the countryside. Out of loyalty and ignorance, Nicholas accuses Stone of being a typical Brit with no regard for Africa and that he's sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for those disappearances. Stone then tells Nicholas that the Health Minister is one of the disappeared. Panicked, Nicholas goes to the Ministry of Health building only to find a different person is now the Health Minister. Nicholas knows it is his fault the Health Minister is likely dead even as he delivers the "official statement" that the Heath Minister has fled the country for embezzling funds and is a suspected Obete supporter. Nicholas soon learns that the Health Minister was securing a supply of medicine from the white man in Holiday Inn lounge.
It is raining heavily late at night and Nicholas is floating in the pool alone, distressed and upset. Nicholas goes to see Amin to announce he is going home. Amin turns around and it's actually a body double in Amin's uniform. The real Amin and his goons jump out of the shadows laughing and teasing Nicholas. Amin keeps saying "I caught you I caught you" in a childish manner. There are several body doubles in the room and Amin asks Nicholas if the body doubles are more handsome than him. Nicholas of course says no and Amin taunts one of the body doubles that he is ugly. This is another example of Amin insulting his underlings.
After sending his body doubles and goons out of the room, Amin turns serious and tells Nicholas that he cannot go back to Scotland, Uganda is his home now and he is like to a son to Amin. Nicholas begs that he is way over his head especially after the Health Minister affair. Amin scolds Nicholas for his naivety ("nothing can come from nothing"), arrogance, and his white man's attitude toward Africa. Amin then embraces him.
Amin throws a party with go-go girls to cheer Nicholas up, even featuring himself as an Uganda cowboy. This doesn't help as Nicholas still looks very unhappy and downs drink after drink. He runs away from a go-go girl assigned to him and straight into Kay's arms. They end up having sex in a room while the party is still going outside. Kay warns Nicholas that Amin has always been this way and only now shows his true character to Nicholas. She tells him needs to find a way to get out of Uganda. Nicholas still tries to rationalize that things aren't really that bad. Nicholas and Kay return to the party to find it dispirited now that Amin is playing a melancholy tune on the accordion in a trance-like state. This is one of many examples of Amin's quicksilver temperament.
Nicholas returns to his apartment after the party only to find it in completely ransacked. He finds an envelope and upon opening it finds a Ugandan passport with his picture. His Scottish passport gone, Nicholas goes to see Stone who shows him gruesome pictures of murdered people suspected of being Obete's supporters, even entire tribes have been wiped out. Stone saves the best for last, a picture of the dead Health Minister. Stricken, Nicholas pleads for help to get out of Uganda but Stone says he has to "earn his passage" by killing Amin now that the British can no longer control him. Nicholas learns that he has been called "Amin's white monkey" by others.
Trapped without friend or allies, Nicholas and Kay continue to find comfort with one another.
Amin grows increasingly unpredictable and Nicholas's hospital is filled with refugees and victims of Amin's regime. His latest crazy scheme is to kick all Asians out of Uganda within 90 days, calling them leeches. This is part of Amin's plan for an all-black African country. Nicholas arrives at the hospital to find it in total chaos as Amin's goons are trying to expel Asian patients. Goon#1 is beating up Junju and Nicholas stops him and demands that the goons leave the hospital. The goons leave but not before goon#1 gives Nicholas an especially evil glare.
Nicholas goes to Amin and tells him he cannot expel the Asians as they have lived in Uganda for generations and only they have the ability to run the infrastructure of the country. Uganda's economy will be severely crippled if Amin carries out this mad plan. Amin doesn't believe Nicholas and angrily dismisses him as "nothing but a doctor - a nobody".
Kay calls Nicholas in a panic that Amin is "going to kill us." She is pregnant. Kay threatens to go to a village witch doctor and Nicholas begs her not to, that he will somehow arrange the abortion in a clinical setting and that they will do it first thing in the morning. The following morning Nicholas tells Junju what has happened and he understandably freaks out and refuses to have the abortion done in the hospital as Amin is sure to find out and kill any doctors performing the abortion. Nicholas decides he will have to do it himself and raids the medical supply room for the necessary operation when goon #1 interrupts him and said Amin wants to see him right away.
Amin is in hysterics, furious over international newspapers labelling him a madman and a cannibal. He screams that "these are all lies!" and threatens to throw all foreign journalists out of Uganda. He starts in on Nicholas and angrily demands to know why Nicholas did not warn him not to throw the Asians out of Uganda. Nicholas furiously protests that he did precisely this, and Amin throws back, "Ah, but you did not persuade me!"
Cornered, Nicholas advises Amin not to throw the journalists out of Uganda but instead invite them where he can turn on the charm. Amin calms down and happily coos "what will I do without my Nicholas." But Nicholas only looks frightened and Amin asks if there is anything else. Nicholas says no. Amin grabs Nicholas by the face and asks again. Nicholas, losing courage, still says no. Amin lets go of him and says he has to stay for the press conference.
By now we realise the two men's relationship is something of a bizarre love affair, an on-then-off again romance with the heart of darkness. The irony is Nicholas left Scotland to escape a controlling father figure only to be captivated by another, and has gone from the frying pan into the inferno.
At the press conference Amin turns on his charm for the media to distract them and the world from what he's really doing. It works as nearly all the foolish journalists nod their heads in agreement with Amin's ridiculous explanations. Not surprising as many of history's great villains were charismatic enough to get people to go along with their actions. In this conference we find out why Amin calls himself the Last King of Scotland. He sees in Scottish devolutionary ambition a parallel to Africa's own struggle against the English and announces since he has successfully defeated the British, he will do the same for Scotland and hence he will be their king.
After the press conference Nicholas drives like a bat out of hell to Kay's house only to find weeping servants telling him Kay has already gone to the witch doctor and now has been taken to the hospital due to complications from the back-alley abortion. Nicholas rushes to the hospital only to hear creepy wailings. Following the noise he finds series of crying people in the hallway, some appear to have gone insane. Going down to the basement he finds hordes of distressed people and goon#1 telling them this is what happens to those who betray Amin. Entering the morgue he finds Kay's dismembered body. Her legs have been sewn on in place of her arms and her arms in place of her legs.. Her son is in the same room. Nicholas cries over Kay's body and vomits.
Nicholas goes to see Amin who is watching porn with his goons. He gloomily tells Nicholas that he did it to make an example of Kay because she betrayed him. Nicholas gives Amin a bottle of pills for his "headache" and rushes out. Outside he is stopped by the guards and brought back inside where Amin is gleeful and jovial and teases Nicholas for "running away from me". He tells Nicholas that Palestinian terrorists have hijacked an Air France plane and he has allowed them to land in Uganda. Amin feels this is an opportunity to both help his "Palestinian brothers" and show the world what a great leader he is.
While riding to the airport with Amin and the goons, Nicholas nervously eyes the bottle of headache pills still in Amin's hands, indicating that the pills are actually poison. Amin, Nicholas, and the goons arrive at Entebbe airport where Amin assures the news media that the hostages will be looked after and sends in Nicholas. Nicholas notices that goon #1 now has Amin's bottle of pills but he can do nothing about it. Nicholas meets Junju and the nurses that are giving malaria pills to the hostages. While treating the hostages for shock, Nicholas sees goon #1 going outside with the pills. Nicholas follows and sees goon #1 force a child solider to take the pill. Before the boy could swallow the pill Nicholas runs out and makes the boy spit out the pill.
In the next scene the goons are dragging a badly beaten Nicholas in front of the horrified hostages to a shop out of sight from others. Amin tells Nicholas that he knows about the affair with Kay and tells him a story of a practice done in his village to purge a man of evil by hanging him by his skin. Every time the man screams, a bit of evil is released. Amin tells Nicholas that he has "grossly offended your father." Nicholas reaches up to touch Amin and whispers, "You're a child. That's what makes you so scary."
The goons bring ropes and 2 hooks. Holding Nicholas up they proceed to pierce his chest with the hooks while Nicholas is looking straight into Amin's eyes, refusing to scream. Nicholas is strung up and hangs from the ceiling by his skin (a couple of people in the movie theater passed out watching this scene). He never screams and appears to have died. Amin watches, looking genuinely sad and sheds a tear. Amin goes outside and his public persona immediately returns, smiling charmingly for the cameras. He announces that Israel is willing to negotiate and he has made arrangements for the non-Israel citizens to be safety transported away by plane.
The goons take down Nicholas's body and proceed to the basement to unwind with cards and alcohol, leaving the body on the floor of the shop. Junju sneaks in, gives Nicholas a shot (probably adrenaline) to wake him up, bandage up his body and face, and wipe off as much blood as he can. Junju tells Nicholas that while he may deserve to die, he is useless dead. Junju plans to have Nicholas escape with the non-Israelii hostages to a plane and tell the world the truth about Amin, after all they would believe him since he is a white man. Junju gives Nicholas his blazer to better disguise him and pushes him out the door just as the hostages walking to the plane pass by. The hostages help him walk to the plane and comfort him once they are safely on board.
The goons return and discover the body gone and go tearing through the airport looking for him. They find Junju trying to leave the airport and suspect that he has something do with the missing doctor. They take Junju back to the shop and shoot him in the head. The goons interrupt Amin's press interview where he has just explained that he has broken off relations with Israel. The plane is safely in the air and Amin watches it fly away.
Knowing that he is finally truly out of Uganda, Nicholas lets himself pass out.
Epilogue reveals that 48 hours later the Israeli military force made a daring raid on the Entebbe airport and rescued all the hostages except one that died.
World opinion permanently turned against Amin.
(Personal note: Ugandans saw the Israeli's successful rescue of the Entebbe hostages as a sign of Amin's weakness and this was the turning point on Amin's hold on his power)
Amin was overthrown for good in 1979. He died in 2003 while living in exile in Saudi Arabia. He is responsible for 300,000 deaths in Uganda.
The movie shows actual documentation reels of Idi Amin, including a scene of a Ugandan marching army dressed entirely in Scottish garb.