After completing his medical program, Nicholas Garrigan’s father is surprised to learn that his son has decided to practice medicine in Uganda. Upon his arrival, Nicholas meets up with Sarah Merrit and begins to see life in the impoverished areas of the poor country. While out on the road one day, a group of men stop their truck and force them to follow to where the new president has been injured. Nicholas is requested to look at Idi Amin’s wrist, but is distracted by the severely injured bull on the side of the road. Forced to take the president’s gun and shoot the bull, Nicholas is surprised that Idi accepts him for his help and Idi’s love of Scotland. Nicholas is later invited to join Idi’s side as his personal doctor and set up with a position at the local hospital. The more time he spends with Idi, the more attention he catches and the more he realizes that he is in real danger.
Starring: Forrest Whitaker (Idi Amin), James McAvoy (Nicholas Garrigan), Kerry Washington (Kay Amin), Gillian Anderson (Sarah Merrit), Simon McBurney (Stone), David Oyelowo (Dr. Junju), Stephen Rwangyezi (Jonah Wasswa), Abby Mukiibi Nkaaga (Masanga), Adam Kotz (Dr. Merrit), Sam Okelo (Bonny), Sarah Nagayi (Tolu), Chris Wilson (Perkins)
Earning his Oscar for his performance, Whitaker portrayed the conflicted and brutal dictator, Idi Amin. Able to switch from moments of kindness and prosperity to vengeance and violence made his performance one to remember. James McAvoy also got his big break in this film. While his character was a little tamer early in the film, he was able to project the stress incurred from his relationship with Whitaker’s character. Washington also impressed with her combination of fear and concern.
Kevin Macdonald’s bio-pic explored the dangerous rule of president/dictator Idi Amin. Through the experiences of Nicholas Garrigan, Idi was on display for all that made him a tyrant. Able to conceal much of his sinister and psychotic ways early in their relationship, he hid his more aggressive actions behind his bribery and moments of weakness in his relationship with Nicholas. The parties and the women served as strong distractions. Stone was on to Idi’s intentions and had intel that he chose to share with Nicholas. Unable to determine who to trust, Nicholas continued to support the president until the situation started to get more and more concerning. Seeing the violence and the temper of the dictator, he attempted to devise an escape from his grasp. Unfortunately, his complicated relationship with Kay caught the attention of Idi and nearly cost Nicholas his life, but not without severe suffering first.
Taking the film from the view of Nicholas, all the young doctor wanted was to help people. Initially attracted to Uganda due to the need for the poor country, he set himself up with a great opportunity to apply his medical knowledge and talents. He may have also been a bit promiscuous, but his heart was in the right place in regards to his work. Tempted by the pleasures of Idi, he let himself get caught up in the cushy job and the comfortable living. By the time he realized he was trapped in a life he did not want, he was too deep to climb out without harm. Seeking the comfort of Kay, they commiserated over their entrapment, but her pregnancy put both of them at risk. Idi found out and made both of them pay for their indiscretion, particularly Kay with her life. Nicholas was lucky to make it out alive and tell his story. In the end, this experience helped to reveal the truth to the world about how horrible Idi truly was and he finally was punished for his brutality.
This was one of Whitaker’s and McAvoy’s finest, as it described a dictator’s reign and the start of his downfall through the eyes of a Scot looking to make a difference.
Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5