The Last King of Scotland (film)

The Last King of Scotland

UK theatrical release poster
Directed by Kevin Macdonald
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based on The Last King of Scotland
by Giles Foden
Music by Alex Heffes
Cinematography Anthony Dod Mantle
Edited by Justine Wright
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • 27 September 2006 (2006-09-27) (United States)
  • 12 January 2007 (2007-01-12) (United Kingdom)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • English
  • Swahili
Budget $6 million[2]
Box office $48.4 million[2]

The Last King of Scotland is a 2006 British drama film based on Giles Foden's novel The Last King of Scotland (1998), adapted by screenwriters Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock, and directed by Kevin Macdonald. The film was a co-production between companies from the United Kingdom and the United States, including Fox Searchlight Pictures and Film4, and was a financial success.

The film tells the fictional story of Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), a young Scottish doctor who travels to Uganda and becomes the personal physician of President Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). The film is based on events of Amin's rule, and the title comes from a reporter in a press conference who wishes to verify whether Amin, who was known to adopt fanciful imperial titles for himself, declared himself the King of Scotland.

The film received widespread critical acclaim. Particular focus went to Whitaker, who received outstanding critical acclaim for his portrayal of Amin. He won Best Actor at the Academy Awards, among others.


In 1970, Nicholas Garrigan graduates from medical school at the University of Edinburgh.[3] With dull prospects at home, he decides to seek adventure abroad by working at a Ugandan missionary clinic run by Dr. David Merrit (Adam Kotz) and Merrit's wife, Sarah. Garrigan becomes attracted to Sarah, who enjoys the attention, but refuses to engage in an extramarital affair.

Meanwhile, General Idi Amin overthrows incumbent president Milton Obote in a coup d'état. Garrigan sincerely believes Amin will help the country, while Sarah warns him of presidents who have taken over before.

Garrigan is called to a minor car accident where he treats Amin's hand. During the incident, Garrigan takes a gun and shoots a mortally wounded cow because no one else has the presence of mind to put it out of its misery. Amin is impressed by his quick action and initiative. Amin, fond of Scotland as a symbol of resilience and admiring of the Scottish people for their resistance to the English, is delighted to discover Garrigan's nationality and exchanges his military shirt for Garrigan's Scotland shirt. Later, Amin invites Garrigan to become his personal physician and take charge of modernising the country's health care system.

Garrigan soon becomes Amin's trusted confidant and is relied on for much more than medical care, such as matters of state. Although Garrigan is aware of violence around Kampala, he accepts Amin's explanation that cracking down on the opposition will bring lasting peace to the country. Garrigan discovers that the polygamous leader has ostracised the youngest of his three wives, Kay, because she has given birth to an epileptic son, Mackenzie. When treating Mackenzie, Garrigan and Kay form a relationship and sleep with each other, but Kay tells him he must find a way to leave Uganda. Eventually, Garrigan begins to lose faith in Amin as he witnesses the increasing paranoia, murders, and xenophobia in expelling South Asians from the country. Amin replaces Garrigan's British passport with a Ugandan one to prevent him from escaping, which leads Garrigan to frantically seek help from Stone, the local British Foreign Office representative. Garrigan is told the British will help him leave Uganda if he uses his position to assassinate Amin, but Garrigan refuses.

Kay informs Garrigan that she has become pregnant with his child. Aware that Amin will murder her for infidelity if he discovers this, she begs Garrigan for a secret abortion. Delayed by Amin's command that he attend a press conference with Western journalists, Garrigan fails to meet Kay at the appointed time. She concludes she has been abandoned and seeks out a primitive abortion in a nearby village, where she is apprehended by Amin's forces. Garrigan finds her dismembered corpse on an autopsy table and falls retching to his knees, finally confronting the inhumanity of Amin's regime and decides killing him will end it all.

A hijacked aircraft is flown to Entebbe by pro-Palestinian hijackers seeking asylum from agents of international law. Amin, sensing a major publicity opportunity, rushes to the scene, taking Garrigan along. At the airport, one of Amin's bodyguards discovers Garrigan's plot to poison Amin under the ruse of giving him pills for a headache. His treachery revealed, Garrigan is beaten by Amin's henchmen before Amin himself arrives and discloses he is aware of the relationship with Kay. As punishment, Garrigan's chest is pierced with meat hooks before he is hanged by his skin.

Amin arranges a plane for the release of non-Israeli passengers, and the torturers leave Garrigan unconscious and bleeding on the floor while they relax in another room. Garrigan's medical colleague, Dr. Junju, takes advantage of the opportunity to rescue him. He urges Garrigan to tell the world the truth about Amin's regime, asserting that the world will believe Garrigan because he is white. Junju gives Garrigan his own jacket, enabling him to mingle unnoticed with the crowd of freed hostages and board the plane. When the torturers discover Garrigan's absence, Junju is killed for aiding in the escape while the plane departs with Garrigan on board. Amin is informed too late to prevent it, while Garrigan tearfully remembers the people of Uganda.

The epilogue shows real footage of Amin as well as figures such as the 300,000 who died under his regime. It also tells of Amin's eventual 2003 death while in exile in Saudi Arabia.



Box office

The Last King of Scotland received a limited release in the United States on 27 September 2006, a UK release on 12 January 2007, a French release on 14 February 2007, and a German release on 15 March 2007. In the United States and Canada, the film earned $17,606,684 at the box office. In the United Kingdom, the film took $11,131,918. Its combined worldwide gross was $48,362,207.[4]

Critical response

The Last King of Scotland received positive reviews from critics and has a "certified fresh" score of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 181 reviews, with an average score of 7.3 out of 10. The critical consensus states: "Forest Whitaker's performance as real-life megalomaniac dictator Idi Amin powers this fictionalized political thriller, a blunt and brutal tale about power and corruption".[5] At Metacritic, the film has a score of 74 out of 100 based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[6]


Academy Awards record
1. Best Actor (Forest Whitaker)
Golden Globe Awards record
1. Best Actor - Drama (Forest Whitaker)
BAFTA Awards record
1. Best British Film
2. Best Actor (Forest Whitaker)
3. Best Adapted Screenplay

Whitaker received outstanding critical acclaim for his performance as Amin. He won in the best leading actor category at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the BAFTAs. In addition, Whitaker also won awards from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics' Circle, Los Angeles Film Critics' Association, the National Board of Review and many other critics awards, for a total of at least 23 major awards, with at least one more nomination.

The film received a 2007 BAFTA Award for Best British Film and the BAFTA award for Best Adapted Screenplay, in addition to receiving nominations for Best Film. McAvoy was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

The film was received well in Uganda, where it premiered two days before Whitaker won the Best Actor Academy Award.[7]

Historical accuracy

While the character of Idi Amin and the events surrounding him in the film are mostly based on fact, Garrigan is a fictional character. Foden has acknowledged that one real-life figure who contributed to the character Garrigan was English-born Bob Astles, who worked with Amin.[8] Another real-life figure who has been mentioned in connection with Garrigan is Scottish doctor Wilson Carswell.[9] Like the novel on which it is based, the film mixes fiction with real events in Ugandan history to give an impression of Amin and Uganda under his rule. While the basic events of Amin's life are followed, the film often departs from actual history in the details of particular events.

In real life and in the book, Kay Amin was impregnated by her lover Dr. Mbalu Mukasa. She died during a botched abortion operation performed by Mukasa, who subsequently committed suicide.[10] Bob Astles said in a lengthy interview with the journalist Paul Vallely in The Times that her body was dismembered by her lover so it could be hidden and was then sewn back together on Amin's orders.[11] Amin never had a son named Campbell.

Contrary to the wording of the film's coda, three hostages died during Operation Entebbe. The body of a fourth hostage, 75-year-old Dora Bloch, who was killed by Ugandan Army officers at a nearby hospital in retaliation for Israel's actions, was eventually returned to Israel.[12]

Some historians believe the film and its depiction of Amin are comparable with the Shakespearean character Macbeth. According to Foden, adapting the titular character from Macbeth as a Third World dictator is plausible.[13]


  1. "THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 12 September 2006. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  2. 1 2 "The Last King of Scotland (2006) - Box Office Mojo".
  3. "Interview". Random House. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  4. Last King of Scotland. Box Office Mojo.
  5. The Last King of Scotland. Rotten Tomatoes. 27 September 2006.
  6. The Last King of Scotland. Metacritic.
  7. Sarah Grainger (18 February 2007). "Ugandan premiere for Last King", BBC, Accessed 23 May 2008.
  8. "An Interview with Giles Foden". Random House. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  9. Pells, Rachael (10 October 2014). "Douglas Carswell profile". Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  10. "The myths surrounding Idi Amin." at the Wayback Machine (archived 28 May 2007) Daily Monitor, accessed 12 December 2009.
  11. "Interview with Paul Vallely". The Times.
  12. "Body of Amin Victim Is Flown Back to Israel". The New York Times. 4 June 1979. p. A3.
  13. Foden, Gil (2 September 2004). "The African Play". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 March 2014.

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