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 has an approval rating of 87% at Rotten Tomatoes, and Whitaker won Best Actor at the Academy Awards, among others.
In 1970, Nicholas Garrigan graduates from medical school at the University of Edinburgh. 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.Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin
James McAvoy as Nicholas Garrigan
Kerry Washington as Kay Amin
Gillian Anderson as Sarah Merrit
Simon McBurney as Stone
David Oyelowo as Dr. Junju
Apollo Okwenje Omamo as Mackenzie
Shabir Mir as Zumba
Cleopatra Koheirwe as Joy
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.
The Last King of Scotland has an approval rating of 87% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 181 reviews and 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". At Metacritic, the film has a score of 74 out of 100 based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Whitaker 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.
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. Another real-life figure who has been mentioned in connection with Garrigan is Scottish doctor Wilson Carswell. 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. 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. 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.
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.