A very engaging film that features solid performances by all involved.
I wish Forest Whitaker would have done a commentary track for this release.
Forest Whitaker embodies the role of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in Director Kevin Macdonald's The Last King of Scotland. However, this movie follows the journey of Dr. Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) who journeyed to Uganda because he wanted to see more of the world. After working as a doctor in a village, he ends up helping newly elected President Idi Amin with his sprained hand and Amin realizes that Garrigan could be valuable to him as a personal physician. Garrigan doesn't accept but eventually gets seduced by Amin's offer as he really thinks he can help effect change to the people of this land. Little by little that facade is cracked with Amin seeming at times like a helpless child and at others he acts like a bloodthirsty tyrant.
What ensues is Garrigan eventually realizing he needs to leave. Sadly, Amin will not let this happen, and the Doctor ends up having an affair and impregnating Amin's wife Kay (Kerry Washington). Amidst all this he has to contend with British power brokers who have helped Amin gain power but also want to keep him in check. In the end, we see the carefree Doctor who has lived very much in the moment, come to understand that his actions have a reality all their own. With powerful performances by everyone in this cast, it isn't surprising that Forest Whitaker was the toast of this past years Award's Season.
They have put 7 of these on here with an optional commentary track by Kevin Macdonald. I decided to watch these without the commentary track just because I wanted to view them how I had viewed the film proper. I was actually surprised with how bad these looked. The images seemed stretched on screen and some of them looked as if they had been shot on Hi Def video. This didn't look bad it just contrasted heavily with the rest of the film. They have titles like "Uganda, 1948" and "Idi's Test/Nicholas Suit" and they also feature timecode from the movie.
Three featurettes have been put on this DVD. They are Capturing Idi Amin, which is a really well put together documentary on who this man was and what The Last King of Scotland meant to this country. Forest Whitaker "Idi Amin", is a featurette in which the actor sits down and discusses who he thought this man was and why he wanted to play him. Lastly, there is a Fox Casting Session which looks a little more at the characters in this film. Truthfully, one needs to only watch the first two featurettes in order to get the gist of what these segments are about. Out of all three of them, my favorite was Capturing Idi Amin because we see the country being shot in the film, and then we see the country during the time that Amin was actually in power. There is some very insightful and interesting material here.
In Director Kevin Macdonald's somber commentary track he takes us through the making of this film. He discusses anecdotes that happened as they were shooting the movie, in addition to talking about the film from a production standpoint. Macdonald discusses how he read Giles Foden's book before it came out and that made him want to tell this story. He goes on to discuss recreating the archive footage that he was able to obtain on Idi Amin, managing all the locales, and how Kerry Washington is so good her role as one of Amin's wives that people think she's African. Along the way, he also points out what were real props and what had to be replicated.
Widescreen. This movie looked really good. Fox sent me a burned copy so perhaps all the finishing touches haven't been applied, but for my tastes everything was well above par. The film itself didn't really grab me as a period piece. Even though I knew it was covering the 1970s, I never felt like this film was steeped in that time. If anything, it seemed to be more contemporary than I think the Director would have wanted me to think it was. However, the setting was very real and on the big TV I screened it on (with surround sound), I found that this film engulfed me.
I wasn't given the proper packaging for this release, I really can't say exactly what kind of audio was used. I didn't hear anything that caught my attention in a negative way, and I also had the pleasure of viewing this movie on a surround sound system. This worked out really well because a lot of the music and dialogue is very hard-driving. I can't imagine that it would be any lower or not sound as good as a regular release. There is a lot of music in this film, both contemporary to that time and from a soundtrack perspective, and all of it contributes nicely to giving this movie it's powerful feel.
As I mentioned, my friends at 20th Century Fox only sent me this movie in a white envelope. While I loved getting to screen it on DVD, I really wish that I had been given the complete package so I could have provided a more comprehensive view. That said, I am sure you can look at the image on this page and figure it out.
This is often said about actors but I am only repeating because I believe it bares a lot truth, Forest Whitaker is so good in this role that you forget that you are watching him. In fact, when I went through the extra features, I was almost shocked by how different he looked in real life versus on-screen. Whitaker isn't a very effusive person. He doesn't give off a lot of gusto in interviews (and he especially doesn't in his acceptance speeches), but as Idi Amin he is magnetic. It is easy to see why Dr. Garrigan falls under his spell. This is a man who can walk the fine line between being completely vulnerable and completely detached. There seems to be no middle-ground aside from the fact that he knows how to stroke people. He plays upon their desires to be needed and as such it is easy to see how he romanced an entire nation even while committing tons of atrocities.
The only thing I am curious about is why wasn't James McAvoy nominated for anything? He was terrific in this movie (and it really is his story), and it isn't like Whitaker blew him off the screen. It all merely seems like it was a case of a low budget film placing their chips behind what seemed like the best Oscar bet. In this case that gamble paid off, but I am glad that this movie is finally on DVD so people can see just how good everyone is in it.
The Last King of Scotland was released January 12, 2006.