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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Last King of Scotland


Starring: Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy Kerry Washington, Simon McBurney and Gillian Anderson
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 01 February 2010

Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), having graduated as a doctor, cannot face the prospect of ending up like his father. He spins his globe and, with his eyes shut, decides to go wherever his finger stops. It stops at Uganda. Garrigan gets to Uganda at the same time as the coup d’état by General Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker), although from separate cultures fate would bring these two men together...

The Last King of Scotland (2006) is a drama about a fictional meeting between a Scottish doctor and Idi Amin. The film was directed by Kevin Macdonald and was adapted for the screen by Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock from Giles Foden’s original novel, of the same name.

What can one honestly say about the film which hasn’t already been said? Like most, when I heard about the adaptation and that Forest Whitaker was going to play Idi, I had my doubts - and so did the production team as they admit in the documentary. I mean Forest, fine actor that he is, has a softness about him and he is going to play a vicious dictator? Then you see him meet the doctor for the first time, this huge bulk of a man, whose eyes remain as cold as death even when he is smiling... and a shiver runs down your spine. Whitaker is not only a hundred per cent convincing in the role, he is positively scary to watch. Following his performance he was showered by many well deserved awards.

Not that James McAvoy doesn’t do his best to hold his screen time as well as he plays the naïve doctor who, having gone out to work at a remote hospital run by Dr. David Merrit (Adam Kotz) and his wife Sarah (Gillian Anderson), attends one of Idi’s rallies only to be called back to tend to the president's sprained hand. When Garrigan can no longer bare the sound of a cow in pain he uses Idi’s own gun to put it to sleep, from then on the two men are linked.

It would have been easy to make a film portraying Idi as a mad dictator, indulging in cannibalism, but that would have just continued the stereotype of African dictators. The film does spend time showing the charisma of the man, giving an idea to a western audience why his own people would have been happy he took the reins of power off a corrupt regimen. This being a drama rather than a historic enactment the fictional Dr Garrigan is the audience's guide into the world of Idi.

Following their fateful meeting Garrigan is asked to become Idi’s personal physician and soon he is witness to the dictator’s crumbling mental health and his powerful mood swings. Some licence has been taken with fact and in the film the good doctor has an affair with one of Idi’s wives which ends up with her being dismembered on a morgue slab.

Although the extras on the Blu-ray are pretty good, there is nothing here which really pushes the technology - no picture in picture etc. What you do get is a very informative full length commentary by director Kevin Macdonald, which is one of the better ones I’ve heard recently, as he discusses the book and the film without resorting to just telling you what you are seeing on the screen.

The disc also has seven deleted scenes (12 min) with optional commentary and Capturing Idi Amin (29 min) which compares the historical fact with the film. This has contributions for people who lived through his reign, including journalist John Snow and contributions from the cast and crew. Once again, an informative piece which is much more that the usual ‘how great we are’ that some of these things descend into.

The disc finishes with Forest Whitaker “Idi Amin” (9 min) with Forest discussing how he went about capturing the essence of the man; a Fox Movie Presents: Casting Couch Season - The Last King of Scotland (8 min, 30 sec); and the film’s original theatrical trailer (2 min, 25 sec). All the extras are in standard definition.

Once again the picture has been dusted off for Blu-ray, with sharp vibrant colours and an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with a very respectable DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track.

So what more can you ask for but a tour de force performance from Whitaker which will have you spellbound and on the edge of your seat.


Charles Packer

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