Film: The Last King of Scotland

"I am the father of this nation, Nicholas. And you have most... grossly... offended your father."
Idi Amin

The Last King of Scotland is a critically acclaimed 2006 Film of the Book which fictionalizes the rise and fall of Idi Amin, the infamous dictator from Uganda.

The movie starts in 1970 with the protagonist, Nicholas Garrigan, a young Scottish medical graduate who rebels against his father by leaving to work as a doctor in Uganda. While working in a missionary hospital in Uganda and being hot for the married Sarah Meritt, The Casanova Garrigan meets Idi Amin, a charismatic general who is so impressed with him that he appoints him to become his personal doctor. Soon Idi Amin descends from (seemingly) being an Anti-Hero and Affably Evil to a Bad Boss and The Caligula. Nicholas Garrigan plays the role of a Wide-Eyed Idealist, first by overlooking a lot of Amin's bloodthirsty antics by convincing himself that it is necessary to bring peace to Uganda, and believing that things would get better as Amin's enemies are eliminated. Unsurprisingly, he is wrong. It does not help that he falls in love with Amin's youngest and discarded wife Kay, which soon leads him in a confrontation.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Nicholas' situation. Imagine if you were friends with someone who's the leader of a nation and then they are being accused of being a dictator. Naturally you defend them, but what would you do when the accusations turn out to be facts and you watch your friend become unstable to the point where he'll kill anyone who does something he doesn't like, including you yourself?
    • The thought of being trapped in a foreign country with no way to get out—it doesn't help that there are numerous Real Life horror stories about this.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Every female, single or married, in the movie seems to hit on Garrigan. Also, Amin had three wives, but they probably did not have much of a choice.
  • Ambition Is Evil: And how.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: After he's done humiliating Nicholas for not believing him about Amin's atrocities sooner, Stone offers his help... in exchange for assassinating Amin. Subverted in the fact that Nicholas initially refuses to do so, before Kay's brutal murder proves to be the final straw for him and pushes him into action.
  • Antagonist Title: Brutal dictator Idi Amin is the eponymous Last King of Scotland referred to by the film's title (which was a real life title he took for himself). Nick Garrigan is the protagonist.
  • Ax-Crazy: Idi Amin.
  • Batman Gambit: Done by Nicholas in order to kill Amin. It doesn't work and the consequences for doing so are not to be envied.
  • Bait the Dog: The central theme of the movie, both for Nicholas, and the audience.
  • Big Bad: Amin.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Nicholas is initially deeply contemptuous of the Smug Snake British diplomat Stone, but while Stone is clearly someone with ambiguous ethics himself, it quickly becomes apparent that Amin is a thousand times worse. Unfortunately, Nicholas' earlier contempt and blindness comes back to bite him, since Stone makes it clear that he is going to demand a high price in exchange for his help in getting Nicholas out of the country. Nicholas himself is also not a paragon, being a rather selfish, naive and venal man for much of the movie.
  • Body Double: Amin uses one to briefly to trick Nicholas when he comes to talk to him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Well, since this is a biography, many people know that in the end, Amin was overthrown. However, considering what happened in the movie and the fact that the demise of Amin's regime is only mentioned in the credits, it's not exactly a happy ending. For Nicholas, it's more of a Downer Ending.
  • Broken Pedestal: Slowly but surely, Nicholas becomes disillusioned and then disgusted with Amin, the man he initially held in high esteem.
    • One can probably guess that Kay's son Mackenzie, who Nicholas saved once, would also count for this trope considering the fact that Nicholas essentially caused his mother to be killed gruesomely at the hands of his father. It doesn't really help that when Nicholas finds Kay's body in the hospital, Mackenzie is giving him a look that screams "this is your fault, isn't it?".
  • The Caligula: Amin, obviously.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Do not watch the last half hour or so of this movie if you've just eaten.
    • Amin says the technique he used to torture Nicholas comes from a similar punishment in his childhood, with a tree, where every scream of the victim is evil leaving their body.
  • Crapsack World: Uganda under Amin.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Sorry, Kay..
  • Cultural Posturing: Amin thoroughly indulges in black nationalism, extolling Africa as the cradle of civilization and Uganda as the heart of the world.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Garrigan and Amin.
  • Decoy Leader: Nicholas mistakes an Amin double for the real thing.
  • The Dragon: Masanga, the chief of Amin's soldiers.
  • Double Standard: Kay, one of Amin's three wives, is discarded by him because he holds her at fault for their child having epilepsy, yet he's enraged at the discovery of her infidelity.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Amin.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Amin.
  • Fallen Hero: Nicholas Garrigan.
  • Fanservice: Topless gogo dancers with a side order of James McAvoy's arse. And front.
  • Fan Disservice: Kay's body is found completely naked. Aside from the standard "dead bodies are Squicky" effect, there's also the fact that her arms and legs have swapped positions, resulting in a grotesque figure.
  • Fatal Flaw: Nicholas's naivety. Also, his desire for risks and adventure; throughout the movie, he keeps making rejecting the safe (and in his mind, boring) option in favour of something more risky and exciting, only for it to become increasingly clear as things get much worse for him that he really should have stayed with the safe option.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Idi Amin. Truth in Television as the real Amin was quite charming despite being every bit the unstable tyrant he's depicted as in the film. Even lampshaded by the Tag Line.
  • Foreign Correspondent: Nicholas
  • Foreign Culture Fetish: Amin is fascinated by Scottish culture, going as far as proclaiming himself "the last king of Scotland" (hence the title).
  • Full-Circle Revolution: In tandem with History Repeats. Gillian Anderson's character, Sarah, correctly predicts that in two years Amin's regime would be as bad, if not worse, than Obote's. Every time a new leader replaces an old one, there's much rejoicing in the streets.
  • Hannibal Lecture: Amin gives one to Nicholas, after finding out that the latter had an affair with the former's wife Kay. Amin derides Nicholas for thinking that everything is a game, and telling him that Nicholas' death may be the first real thing that happens to him. See also Mighty Whitey below.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Obote and the Israelis.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Essentially what Dr. Junju does, healing Nicholas (tortured for betrayed Amin), freeing him, and secretly sending him on a plane out of Uganda knowing the consequences and simply saying "I don't know" when asked why he did it. And one of Amin's men promptly shoots him in the head.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Nicholas Garrigan is based on Bob Astles (he wasn't Scottish), who was imprisoned twice for his association to Ugandan presidents, Milton Obote and Idi Amin. Astles in real life was a Minion with an F in Evil; Garrigan on the other hand is a Loveable Rogue/Jerkass Woobie who, it is implied, helps bring down the Amin regime.
  • Hypocrite: When Nicholas tries to convince Amin not to exile the Indians, Amin ridicules him for begging for his "fucking Asian tailors" also says that he's a nobody. When the media has a field day with this fact, Amin says that he should have never done that and asks Nicholas why he didn't convince him not to, saying that he's his "personal advisor".
  • In Film Nickname: Stone informs Nicholas that the public refers to him as "Amin's white monkey".
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Jokingly invoked by Amin himself during the first formal dinner scene. Also, rumours about Amin's cannibalism are given a nod.
  • Israelis with Infrared Missiles: They are described as raiding Entebbe before the credits roll.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Stone, the Smug Snake British Foreign Office representative that Garrigan hates, eventually turns out to be right about Amin's brutality. In no way is he nice about making his point to Nicholas when the doctor comes for his help after Amin replaces Nicholas' British passport with a Ugandan one to prevent him from escaping. and tells him that the only way he'll help is if Nicholas does his bidding.
  • Kill 'em All: The only major characters left alive at the end of the film are Amin and Garrigan.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Dr. Junju, for helping Nicholas out of Uganda. One of Amin's men shoots him in the head, just as he mentions his wife.
  • Large Ham: Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin. His effort in portraying the dictator didn't go unnoticed, as he won 23 awards for his role.
  • The Last Title: The title.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Nicholas, briefly.
  • Mighty Whitey: Subverted and/or deconstructed. Nicholas believes, at first, that he can solve Uganda's problems (well, at least some of them), but fails miserably. Lampshaded towards the end, when Amin admonishes Nicholas for trying to "play the 'white man and the natives' game".
    • In Nicholas' defense, he only went to Uganda because he randomly pointed to a spinning globe. However, Uganda was his second spin; Canada was his first spin. Should have gone with the safe option.
    • Invoked in the ending, when Dr. Junju says his reason for helping Nicholas to escape is so that Nicholas can tell the world of Amin's atrocities, saying that they will believe him because he is a white man.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: Nicholas receives an order from Amin's soldiers that he is very sick and when he visits him, Amin himself believes that he was poisoned by Obote's men. Turns out the problem was just built up gas due to Amin mixing beer with aspirin.
    • Fridge Brilliance: It's possible Amin never really believed it was anything serious, and just acted like that to bring Nicholas closer to his circle.
    • Also how the two of them meet: Nick and Sara get pulled over by soldiers looking for a doctor after Amin is injured in a car accident with a cow. Turns out Amin only sprained his hand, but the way he and his guards act, you's think he had been severely injured—he even later introduces Nicholas as "the man who saved my life".
  • Mood-Swinger: Amin can go from affable to bloodthirsty to paranoid to depressed in the blink of an eye.
  • New Era Speech: In his first scene, Amin delivers a rousing speech about how things are going to improve under his leadership.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The guy Nicholas reports and accidentally gets murdered was actually trying to bring more medicine to Uganda.
  • Oh Crap!: Nicholas has several of these, increasing in severity. First when he hears that the man he reported has disappeared; it's his first inkling that Amin isn't the good guy he presents himself as. Then when he discovers that Amin replaced his British passport with a Ugandan one, then when Stone shows him all the atrocities that's happening in the countryside and what Amin did to eliminate his opposition, then when he finds Kay's body and finally, there's when his Batman Gambit to kill Amin fails and when Amin tells him that he knows about his affair with Kay.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    Amin: ...or are you like all the other British? Just here to fuck, and then take away?
  • Properly Paranoid: Definitely averted by Amin, but played straight with Nicholas, who tries to find a way to get out of Uganda without being seen by Amin's men, who were ordered by Amin himself to prevent this.
    • Yet still averted with Nicholas, who despite by now having a very good idea of what Amin's capable of, carries on an affair with Kay while making little to no effort to hide it.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Idi Amin.
    Nicholas Garrigan: You're a child. That's what makes you so fucking scary.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Amin delivers one to Nicholas during his torture.
    Amin: Look at you. Is there one thing you have done that is good? Did you think this was all a game? 'I will go to Africa and I will play the white man with the natives.' Is that what you thought? We are not a game, Nicholas. We are real. This room here, it is real. I think your death will be the first real thing that has happened to you.
  • Scary Black Man: Amin, of course. Some of his men are also this.
  • Shout-Out: To King Lear - 'nothing comes from nothing'
  • Sidelong Glance Biopic
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Continuing on from the "Hannibal Lecture" cited above, after Amin's men have pummeled Garrigan and are about to severely torture him, Amin (with arguable degrees of accuracy) accuses him of being a white man who came to Africa as if it were all a game, to screw the local women and act like it was a giant vacation. Whatever Garrigan's personal faults might be, his retort to this is to finally state to Amin's face what none of his inner circle ever had the courage to point out, no matter how ridiculously obvious it increasingly became: "You are a child".
  • Starcrossed Lovers: Kay and Garrigan.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Amin's wife Kay, whose body is found inside a hospital... with some body parts rearranged.
  • Tested on Humans: Amin's bodyguard forces a Child Soldier to swallow one of the poisoned headache pills Garrigan had prepared for Amin, causing Garrigan to give himself away.
  • Title Drop: Amin, who has an affinity for Scottish culture, refers to himself as "The Last King of Scotland" in one of his speeches.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sleeping with Amin's wife, after you've seen what he's capable of? Not making every effort to conceal your affair? Not using protection, leading to her pregnancy and subsequent death? Sorry, Nicholas, you brought what follows on yourself.
    • Admittedly the only sex we see came right after one hell of a drinking montage, so at the time he was probably drunk out of his mind.
    • He continued to see her even before he found out she was pregnant.
    • Not to mention completely ignoring that Amin was committing bald-faced atrocities on his own people, in lieu of accepting Amin's explanation that cracking down on Obote's remaining supporters will bring a lasting peace to the country and that the guy was utterly insane (Though to be fair, Amin's Affably Evil nature did a good job masking his insanity up until the middle of the movie).
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Amin (if not so much in looks, definitely in personality) and Kay (presumably the other of his wives as well)
  • The Unfavorite: Kay, the youngest of Amin's three wives. She was exiled by Amin because she gave birth to an epileptic son.
    Kay: He visits the children. Not me. He thinks that I am a bad omen.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Subverted. Nicholas initially thinks that Amin, while harsh at times, is necessary in order to make Uganda a great country. As the movie goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that Amin is actually a psychopath and that he just enjoys being a murderous dictator.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: While Idi Amin did exist and was a horrible dictator Garrigan is a fictional character that incorporates some of Bob Astles' experiences.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Well, to say Villainous Breakdown would imply that he was stable at one point, but Amin still counts.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Amin again.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Nicholas, when he finds Kay's body.
  • Wall Bang Her: Nicholas. With Amin's wife, of all people.
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Nicholas' has a T-shirt with the Scottish flag. Amin swaps his military shirt for it.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Sarah and the missionary are totally abandoned when Nick becomes Amin's physician.
    • They are seen again towards the end, being evacuated as the situation worsens. Yet another "safer option" he should have stuck with, rather than letting himself be drawn into Amin's circle.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Deconstructed; Garrigan's idealism when it comes to Amin is ultimately revealed to be naiveté on an almost unforgivable scale.
  • Wolverine Publicity: James McAvoy's Dr. Garrigan is the main protagonist, but Forest Whitaker's Amin completely dominates the theatrical poster (see the image at the top of this page) and the North American Blu-Ray/DVD cover.