Reel Story: The Last King of Scotland |

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Reel Story: The Last King of Scotland

Like Amin and the ‘royal’ title he claimed, the film grasps reality somewhat loosely. Fact-based fiction may tell a good story, but it can distract from the crucial messages, says Jonny Wilkes


After watching Kevin Macdonald’s hardhitting The Last King of Scotland, it wouldn’t be Asurprising if many were left thinking, “Wow, did that really happen? Did a young Scottish doctor really find himself at the heart of Idi Amin’s Ugandan regime, fall for one of his wives, remain naive to the worst of the dictator’s atrocities and, when facing certain death, make a daring escape by sneaking onto a plane?” Well, unfortunately, no. The story is too good to be true, grounded in Giles Foden’s novel rather than fact.

This film – while a gripping, performance-driven thriller – is another culprit of stretching the ‘based on a true story’ tag a bit beyond credulity. There are details from the events in Uganda during Amin’s reign, 1971 to 1979, but action centres around James McAvoy’s Dr Nicholas Garrigan, a fictionalised foil, there to provide a western perspective on African politics. In fact, if it wasn’t for the ferocious Oscar-winning turn by Forest Whitaker, Amin himself could have been sidelined as a secondary character, which would hardly tally with his reputation as a sadistic, mass-murdering dictator.

Milton Obote, who was ousted as President of Uganda in January 1971 via a coup led by Amin.
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September 2016 issue of History Revealed.