A largely British production, this tale of enigmatic Ugandan dictator Idi Amin is something more relevant to Europe than our own seas-to-shining seas. Ugandan actor Stephan Rwangyezi, who plays a doomed Amin cabinet member, explains, “The country of Uganda was patched together unnaturally in colonial times; I think Amin was a direct consequence of our history.”
Amin, spookily portrayed by Forest Whitaker, had served in the British Royal Army in Uganda decades before the U.K. supported his 1971 coup. But the charismatic “born leader” was a paranoid monster, slaughtering some 300,000 of his countrymen before being ousted in 1979.
Fresh from med school and seeking adventure, fictional Scot Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) becomes Amin’s personal physician. Seduced by the leader’s enthusiasm and generosity, he remains oblivious to the carnage surrounding him. Death squads, guillotines and alleged cannibalism aren’t even whispered about until a British agent (played by Simon McBurney) clues Garrison in. Last King, the first feature shot in Uganda, asks viewers what they would do as the right hand of a madman. Whitaker’s portrayal illustrates Amin’s complexity; a study on human nature, rather than an indictment.