Like any good little white liberal, I cringe at those stories that filter the painful experiences of “other” people through the eyes of a white protagonist. You know the type: the courage and suffering and strength of those “others” are relevant only insofar as they serve as a crucible for the heroic white man’s personal growth. When I saw the previews for The Last King of Scotland, which portrays the horrific rule of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin as experienced by a Scottish physician, I assumed it was another one of those movies. I was absolutely wrong.
Last King is actually, in large part, about the perversity and immorality of white people treating Africa as their personal playground for self-discovery. The screenplay, written by Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock, based upon the novel by Giles Foden, pulls no punches: Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, their protagonist, might be naïve, but he’s no innocent. A bad version of this story would have let you anticipate a happy ending for him. A mediocre version would have made you wonder whether a happy ending was possible. This movie goes further: it urges you to consider whether a happy ending for Nicholas is even appropriate.