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I am the father of this nation, Nicholas. And you have most... grossly... offended your father...
The movie starts with the protoganist, Nicholas Garrigan, who rebels against his father by leaving to work as a doctor in Uganda. While working in a missionary hospital in Uganda and being hot for the married Sarah Meritt, Casanova Garrigan meets Idi Amin, a charismatic general who is so impressed with him that he appoints him to become his personal doctor. Soon Idi Amin descends from (seemingly) being an Anti-Hero and Affably Evil to a Bad Boss, The Caligula and a Complete Monster. Nicholas Garrigan plays the role of a Wide-Eyed Idealist, first by overlooking a lot of Amin's bloodthirsty antics by convincing himself that it is necessary to bring peace to Uganda, and believing that things would get better as Amin's enemies are eliminated. Unsurprisingly, he is wrong. It does not help that he falls in love with Amin's youngest and discarded wife Kay, which soon leads him in a confrontation.
This movie contains examples of:
- Adult Fear: Nicholas' situation. Imagine if you were friends with someone who's the leader of a nation and then they are being accused of being a dictator. Naturally you defend them, but what would you do when the accusations turn out to be facts and you watch your friend become unstable to the point where he'll kill anyone who does something he doesn't like, including you yourself?
- Affably Evil: Idi Amin. Truth in Television as the real Amin was quite charming despite being every bit the unstable tyrant he's depicted as in the film.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Every female, single or married, in the movie seems to hit on Garrigan. Also, Amin had three wives, but they probably did not have much of a choice.
- Ambition Is Evil: And how.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: After he's done humiliating Nicholas for not believing him about Amin's atrocities sooner, Stone offers his help...in exchange for assassinating Amin. Subverted in the fact that Nicholas refuses to do so.
- Batman Gambit: Done by Nicholas in order to kill Amin. It doesn't work and the consequences for doing so are not to be envied.
- Broken Pedestal: Slowly but surely, Nicholas becomes disillusioned and then disgusted with Amin, the man he initially held in high esteem.
- One can probably guess that Kay's son Mackenzie, who Nicholas saved once, would also count for this trope considering the fact that Nicholas essentially caused his mother to be killed gruesomely at the hands of his father. It doesn't really help that when Nicholas finds Kay's body in the hospital, Mackenzie is giving him a look that screams "this is your fault, isn't it?".
- The Caligula: Amin, obviously.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Do not watch the last half hour or so of this movie if you've just eaten.
- Amin says the technique he used to torture Nicholas comes from a similar punishment in his childhood, with a tree, where every scream of the victim is evil leaving their body.
- Crapsack World: Uganda under Amin.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Sorry, Kay..
- Cultural Posturing: Amin thoroughly indulges in black nationalism, extolling Africa as the cradle of civilization and Uganda as the heart of the world.
- Deadpan Snarker: Both Garrigan and Amin.
- Decoy Leader
- Double Standard: Kay is discarded by Amin because he holds her at fault for their child having epilepsy.
- Fallen Hero: Nicholas Garrigan.
- Amin definitely qualifies from Garrigan's perspective.
- According to Amin's own wife though, he was always a bastard, he just didn't let Nicholas see it until it was too late.
- Amin definitely qualifies from Garrigan's perspective.
- Fan Service: Topless gogo dancers with a side order of James MacAvoy's arse. And front.
- Foreign Correspondent: Nicholas
- Hannibal Lecture: Amin gives one to Nicholas, after finding out that the latter had an affair with the former's wife Kay. Amin derides Nicholas for thinking that everything is a game, and telling him that Nicholas' death may be the first real thing that happens to him. See also Mighty Whitey below.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Obote and the Israelis.
- Hero Antagonist: Obote, the leader of the last remaining opposition to Amin.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Essentially what Dr. Junju does, healing Nicholas (tortured for betrayed Amin), freeing him, and secretly sending him on a plane out of Uganda knowing the consquences and simply saying "I don't know" when asked why he did it. And one of Amin's men promptly shoots him in the head.
- Hypocrite: When Nicholas tries to convince Amin not to exile the Indians, Amin ridicules him for begging for his "fucking Asian tailors" also says that he's a nobody. When the media has a field day with this fact, Amin says that he should have never done that and asks Nicholas why he didn't convince him not to, saying that he's his "personal advisor".
- In Film Nickname: Stone informs Nicholas that the public refers to him as "Amin's white monkey".
- I Am a Humanitarian: Jokingly invoked by Amin himself during the first formal dinner scene. Also, rumours about Amin's cannibalism are given a nod.
- Israelis With Infrared Missiles: They are described as raiding Entebbe before the credits roll.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Stone, the Smug Snake British Foreign Office representative that Garrigan hates, eventually turns out to be right about Amin's brutality. In no way is he nice about making his point to Nicholas when the doctor comes for his help after Amin replaces Nicholas' British passport with a Ugandan one to prevent him from escaping. and tells him that the only way he'll help is if Nicholas does his bidding.
- Kill'Em All: The only major characters left alive at the end of the film are Amin and Garrigan.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: Dr. Junju, for helping Nicholas out of Uganda. One of Amin's men shoots him in the head, just as he mentions his wife.
- Large Ham: Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin. His effort in portraying the dictator didn't go unnoticed, as he won 23 awards for his role.
- Mighty Whitey: Subverted and/or deconstructed. Nicholas believes, at first, that he can solve Uganda's problems (well, at least some of them), but fails miserably. Lampshaded towards the end, when Amin admonishes Nicholas for trying to "play the "white man and the natives" game".
- In Nicholas' partial defense, he only went to Uganada because he randomly pointed to a spinning globe. However, Uganda was his second spin; Canada was his first spin. Should have gone with the safe option.
- Played straight in the end, when Dr. Junju says his reason for helping Nicholas to escape is so that Nicholas can tell the world of Amin's atrocities, saying that they will believe him because he is a white man.
- Minor Injury Overreaction: Nicholas receives an order from Amin's soldiers that he is very sick and when he visits him, Amin himself believes that he was poisoned by Obote's men. Turns out the problem was just built up gas due to Amin mixing beer with aspirin.
- Fridge Brilliance: It's possible Amin never really believed it was anything serious, and just acted like that to bring Nicholas closer to his circle.
- Also how the two of them meet: Nick and Sara get pulled over by soldiers looking for a doctor after Amin is injured in a car accident with a cow. Turns out Amin only sprained his hand, but the way he and his guards act, you's think he had been severely injured.
- Mood Swinger: Amin can go from affable to bloodthirsty to paranoid and to depressed. As he is shown to be The Caligula it is just a matter of time.
- Oh Crap: Nicholas has several of these; First when he discovers that Amin replaced his British passport with a Ugandan one, then when Stone shows him all the atrocities that's happening in the countryside and what Amin did to eliminate his opposition, then when he finds Kay's body and finally, there's when his Batman Gambit to kill Amin fails and when Amin tells him that he knows about his affair with Kay.
- Properly Paranoid: Definitely averted by Amin, but played straight with Nicholas, who tries to find a way to get out of Uganda without being seen by Amin's men, who were ordered by Amin himself to prevent this.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Idi Amin.
Nicholas Garrigan: You're a child. That's what makes you so fucking scary.
- Shout-Out: To King Lear - 'nothing comes from nothing'
- Sidelong Glance Biopic
- Shut UP, Hannibal: Continuing on from the "Hannibal Lecture" cited above, after Amin's men have pummeled Garrigan and are about to severely torture him, Amin (with arguable degrees of accuracy) accuses him of being a white man who came to Africa as if it were all a game, to screw the local women and act like it was a giant vacation. Whatever Garrigan's personal faults might be, his retort to this is to finally state to Amin's face what none of his inner circle ever had the courage to point out, no matter how ridiculously obvious it increasingly became: "You are a child".
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Kay and Garrigan.
- Stuffed Into the Fridge: Amin's wife Kay, whose body is found inside a hospital... with some body parts rearranged.
- Tested on Humans: Amin's bodyguard forces a Child Soldier to swallow one of the poisoned headache pills Garrigan had prepared for Amin, causing Garrigan to give himself away.
- Title Drop: Amin, who has an affinity for Scottish culture, refers to himself as "The Last King of Scotland" in one of his speeches.
- Too Dumb to Live: Sleeping with Amin's wife, after you've seen what he's capable of? Not making every effort to conceal your affair? Not using protection, leading to her pregnancy and subsequently her death? Sorry, Nicholas, you brought what follows on yourself.
- Admittedly the only sex we see came right after one hell of a drinking montage, so at the time he was probably drunk out of his mind.
- Not to mention completely ignoring that Amin was committing bald-faced atrocities on his own people, in lieu of accepting Amin's explanation that cracking down on Obote's remaining supporters will bring a lasting peace to the country and that the guy was utterly insane (Though to be fair, Amin's Affably Evil nature did a good job masking his insanity up until the middle of the movie).
- The Unfavorite: Kay, the youngest of Amin's three wives who was exiled by Amin because she gave birth to an epileptic son.
Kay: He visits the children. Not me. He thinks that I am a bad omen.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: Nicholas initially thinks that Amin, while harsh at times, is necessary in order to make Uganda a great country.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: While Idi Amin did exist and was a horrible dictator Garrigan is a fictional character that incorporates some of Bob Astles experiences.
- Villainous Breakdown: Well, to say Villainous Breakdown would imply that he was stable at one point, but Amin still counts.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Amin again.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Nicholas, when he finds Kay's body.
- Wall-Bang Her: Nicholas. With Amin's wife, of all people.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?: "He's got a gogo dancer after me!"
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Sara and the mission are totally abandoned when Nick becomes Amin's physician.