Don't let the title fool you. The Last King of Scotland takes place not in the Highlands but in Uganda, and the title refers not to some European monarch but to one of the most notorious African dictators, Idi Amin. So why do this film—and the Giles Foden novel on which it is based—bear this title? Partly because "King of Scotland" was one of the many titles Amin gave himself during his brutal eight-year reign; another was "Conqueror of the British Empire." Amin, who rose through the ranks of the British colonial army under the patronage of Scottish officers before Uganda became independent, was a fan of all things Scottish, and sometimes wore kilts in public.
The film is also told from the point of view of Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy, last seen as Mister Tumnus in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), a Scotsman who has just earned his medical degree, and who goes to Africa to get away from his stern father and to have some "fun"—having sex with total strangers, treating the odd patient, and soaking in the anti-English, anti-colonial atmosphere. When Nicholas first arrives in Uganda, he hears that Amin has just taken over the country in a coup, but the locals tell him not to worry; and the first time he sees Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker) himself, at a political rally surrounded by supporters and tribal dancers, he is impressed by the leader's charisma.
At this point, Garrigan is working at a mission with a pair of doctors whose marriage seems to be a little strained, and for a while, Garrigan befriends and even tries to seduce the female half of this couple (The X-Files' Gillian Anderson). But an unexpected roadside encounter with Amin, his bodyguards, and a wounded cow quickly sends Garrigan's life spinning ...1