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Last King of Scotland, The (UK) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000093092
Added by: David Beckett
Added on: 3/4/2007 20:31
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    Review of Last King of Scotland, The

    8 / 10


    After seizing power in a military coup on January 25th 1971, Idi Amin went on to lead Uganda until he was forced to flee Kampala in April, 1979. In those eight years, he became one of the most brutal and colourful leaders the world has seen, with his rule spawning rumours that he kept decapitated heads in the fridge, practised cannibalism and fed political enemies to crocodiles. He proclaimed himself `King of Scotland` and gave himself the title `His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular`!

    `The Last King of Scotland` is based on the book by Giles Foden and adapted for the screen by Jeremy Brock and Peter Morgan, whose credits include `The Deal`, `Longford` and `The Queen`. Morgan has previously tackled a larger than life or controversial subject and with the project helmed by Kevin Macdonald (`One Day in September`, `Touching the Void`), the two bring a realism to the fictionalisation of the reign of Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), as seen through the eyes of the composite character, Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy).

    After qualifying as a doctor, Nicholas Garrigan decides against joining his father as a GP in a small Scottish village, choosing instead to spread his wings. Picking Uganda at random on a globe, he travels to the small clinic run by husband and wife team Dr. and Mrs. Merrit (Adam Kotz and Gillian Anderson). After strapping the new President`s wrist and thus endearing himself to Amin, Garrigan is asked to join him in Kampala.


    Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1, Anthony Dod Mantle`s beautiful cinematography shows that the decision to film on location in Uganda paid dividends. The exterior shots make the bright orange soil and the green of the trees look spectacular and the scenes filmed indoors, no matter how dark, are as sharp as you`d expect from a film just out of the cinemas.


    The DD 5.1 is excellent, clear as a bell and provides a terrific soundstage.

    There is also an audio descriptive track, read by a well spoken Englishman.

    The film has English HoH subtitles, as does the commentary and the audio descriptive track. All subtitle options are excellent and free from spelling and grammatical errors.


    The main menu is preceded by trailers for `Rocky Balboa`, `Notes on a Scandal`, `The Fountain`, `Pathfinder` and `Sunshine` which, fortunately, are skippable.

    The audio commentary with director Kevin Macdonald is interesting and well delivered, although there are a few too many gaps. He talks about the filming in Uganda, how he became involved in the project, the lengths that Forest Whitaker went to to `become` Amin and how helpful the Ugandan government was. Interesting though the commentary is, I would have liked to hear from Giles Foden and his take on the adaptation of his book.

    The seven deleted scenes are `rushes` quality, with decent picture, but the sound is too low to properly watch them. Kevin Macdonald provides an optional audio commentary in which he explains what the scenes show and why they were omitted. They can be watched individually or together, using a `play all` option.

    The `Capturing Idi Amin` featurette, at nearly 30 minutes, is a comprehensive account of the transition from book to film and a brief history lesson with contributions from one of Amin`s health ministers and Jon Snow, who covered Uganda as a young reporter. Although not a feature-length programme, this is very interesting and provides a great deal of background information which supplements the film and the commentary.

    Forest Whitaker "Idi Amin" is a six minute interview with Forest Whitaker in which he discusses the film, the characters and his preparation for the role.

    Fox Movie Channel Presents: Casting Session - `The Last King of Scotland` is an eight minute feature on the casting for the role of Amin with contributions from, amongst others, Kevin Macdonald, Forest Whitaker and casting director Jina Jay. Interesting, although it`s a shame that they don`t tell you who else was considered for the role.

    There is also the theatrical trailer and a web-link to Fox.co.uk.


    Films in which real people are depicted seem to have become more prevalent - over recent years films like `Monster`, `Hotel Rwanda`, `Capote`, `The Queen` and `Downfall`, in which Adolf Hitler was humanised. Previously shown either as a madman or a monster, `Downfall` showed Hitler as a human being and `The Last King of Scotland` does the same with Idi Amin. It focuses on him as a person, with all his neuroses and charm, but also as the brutal dictator who was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.

    As Forest Whitaker`s tour de force performance is one of such power and magnitude, it almost puts the rest of the film into the shade. James McAvoy delivers a solid performance as the doctor who becomes enchanted by the charismatic president, and is drawn in when Amin appoints him his personal physician and trusted advisor. This play on the Faust story works well and allows Whitaker to show Amin as the charmer, the clown and the murderous tyrant, sometimes in as little as one scene.

    Covering the five year period from Amin`s coup to the Entebbe hostage crisis in less than two hours is ambitious and a decision that, despite some pacing problems, works well. However, perhaps not enough was made of Amin`s relationship with Israel, Queen Elizabeth II and Colonel Gadaffi, although to cover any more would detract from what is essentially a drama of the relationship between Amin and Dr. Garrigan.

    Although not a great movie in the true sense of the world, `The Last King of Scotland` is nevertheless thoroughly riveting and involving and at times incredibly tense and even terrifying, with Whitaker`s bravura performance dominating the film.

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