Bored by the suburban life that awaits him upon graduating from medical school, Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) travels to Africa to seek adventure and joins a missionary clinic in Uganda. Unfamiliar with the nation’s politics and history, Garrigan falls into the welcoming hands of the new African president, Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), who asks him to be his personal physician. Rumors about Amin’s violent crimes slowly reach the ears of the stubborn Garrigan, who, still fascinated by Amin, ignores the warning signs. Until it’s too late. Amin’s fickle character eventually reveals itself in all its monstrosity, and Garrigan finds himself in a potentially fatal dead-end.
If you haven’t watched it yet you should do so if only for the sake of Forest Whitaker, whose outstanding performance won him an Oscar for Best Actor, as well as a Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and more. Whitaker seems to have created a perfect replica of Idi Amin, the abusive and corrupt ruler, whom the viewer learns to fear as intensely as Dr. Garrigan does. After charming the viewer (and Garrigan) with his sincere speeches promising to build more hospitals and roads for the good of Africa, Amin suddenly takes off his mask and stands before us as the violent, revengeful man that he really is. Whitaker could not have been more convincing, and more chilling.
This film is intense. Most of it echoes historical truths about Africa and its imperial background, and Garrigan serves as a self-mirror for the white colonialists with their patronizing values. “We are not a game, Nicholas”, says Amin. And he is right. The depiction of the subject of Africa has been long abused in Western culture and this is one of the rare films that put an end to that – It is a sincere attempt to portray Africa in its unfortunate political fate, alongside its beauty.