The Last King of Scotland
Forest Whitaker’s Oscarf-winning performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin—a weirdly charismatic tyrant who oversaw the mass murder of his own countrymen in the 1970s—is this film’s unmistakable centerpiece, but much of the story is about another character, a young Scotsman named Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy). Fresh out of medical school, Garrigan served for a time as Amin’s personal physician, a position which made him, at the dictator’s somewhat crazed whim, a de facto adviser as well. Garrigan is in way over his head, but that doesn’t become fully apparent, to him or to us, until later in the story. The film’s Amin is a contradictory megalomaniac of increasingly monstrous proportions, and Garrigan’s slide from disingenuous enthusiasm to increasingly guilty deviousness (and finally to outright terror) seems intended as a measure of the dictator’s several-sided and ultimately delusional public persona. Instead, we get a spectacle of increasing horror, much of it magnified in almost formulaic fashion through Garrigan’s transformation from accidental hero to abjectly guilty victim. Garrigan is in a way even more central to the action than Amin.