The Last King of Scotland (2006)

If one were to come up with a title for a film that deals with Africa, The Last King of Scotland would seem a quite unlikely choice. After all, Scotland is more than a stone throws away from the dark continent. However, this is not your typical African genre movie.

The film opens with Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), who recently graduated from medical school, being congratulated by his father that he was joining the family medical practice. The scene is priceless, as most sons don't want to do what their father did (most anything but), and the young doctor promptly heads up to his room, spins the globe, and puts his finger down for a destination so far away that he won't be joining his father's practice anytime soon. (While this all seems quite crazy, I can tell you that there was one guy in my medical school class that when he graduated, at the "not so young age to graduate medical school" of forty-six, he decided to run off to Africa and was never heard from again. Then again, he lived in a Volkswagen camper for four years with solar cells on the roof for power, so he was hardly an ordinary guy. I won't mention the TMNT outfit he wore to class one Halloween...)

Getting back to the film at hand, Garrigan next ends up in a missionary medical clinic in Uganda. Clearly the need is great, and there seems to be no limit to the good he can do among this extremely underserved population. He works there with another missionary couple, and the natives come from miles around. Things seem content, and this does keep him from joining his father's medical practice. However, one day, a chance encounter with the country's new leader, military dictator Idi Amin Dada (who went by such modest titles as "His Excellency President for Life"), in an academy award performance by Forest Whitaker, causes him to get involved with this corrupt government.

The Last King of Scotland focuses on the young doctor's role within the government, and his relationship with Amin, this ruthless dictator. On the one hand, he wants to be able to help the Ugandans, on a scale, and in ways that he would never be able as a missionary doctor at a rural clinic. However, along the way, he needs to compromise his morals, and does plenty of looking the other way past the regimes policies and politics. This film is a fascinating character study that shows how absolute power leads to absolute corruption.

I seriously enjoyed this film. The panoramic scenes were shot well. It also presents a realistic view of this dictatorship in Uganda, and the downside of these dictators that live in royal opulence, while their citizens don't even have basic services. This film will frustrate you, entertain you, and finally make you think- all at the same time. If you want over two hours of thought provoking drama, all well acted, than The Last King of Scotland is for you.

Overall Grade: A


PS: There's a chest x-ray that's up backwards in one of the hospital scenes; see if you can spot it.

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