THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (Blu-ray Edition)|
20th Century Fox | 2006 | 123 mins | Rated R | Feb 02, 2010
Written by David Hillyer
February 17, 2010
The Last King of Scotland is in many ways a “period piece”. It chronicles a man who many people will remember from when he was in power in the 1970's. However the news organizations of the time seem to have written their own versions of history – with their particular governments interests in mind. Not surprisingly, there are legends of hideous brutality and immense kindness – it all depends on with whom you speak.
Most view Idi Amin as a brutal dictator who killed between 100,000 and 300,000 of his own people. That is what I was taught in school – along with a barrage of stereotype racist comments about the man. While I'm sure many of the stories are true, I never was really told “why” or the significance of this reign in Uganda. I was hoping The Last King of Scotland would clear some of that up – and also allow me to enjoy the acting of Forrest Whitaker. Unfortunately I only got to enjoy the acting and not the film.
The movie follows a young white Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan (played by James McAvoy). He decides he wants to see the world and help people. A fascinating caricature that gives the audience someone to connect with, but unfortunately he's only that – he doesn't actually exist. To be fair, the blu-ray box touts the film as a “powerful drama inspired by real people and events”. Garrigan is simply a cinematic tool to help draw us into the story. He ends up helping people in the countryside and eventually after helping heal a hand injury, Idi Amin's personal physician and trusted confidant.
Along the way, Garrigan has an affair with one of Amin's wives (Amin had 5 wives in his lifetime). Obviously the affair is fabricated since Garrigan doesn't exist. The woman is killed and dismembered. In the movie Amin has her parts sewn back on in the wrong places (I'm assuming as some kind of sick retribution for the affair). There are conflicting views on if this ever really happened and who killed her. It's not very clear what the filmmakers point was in this mishmash of fact and fiction but I can't say I know anything more accurate or factual than I did before seeing the movie. In the end it felt like this film should have been titled “Escape from Uganda” or some other such blockbuster chase movie title.
The feature length commentary by director Kevin MacDonald is probably one of the better commentaries I've heard with a single person. It's very informative about the actors, the filming process and the real Idi Amin – he even provides the web site addresses for more information about the history of the period. However as with many commentaries that feature one person speaking, there isn't anyone for the director to play off of – so there are long gaps during particularly important scenes where it's pretty easy to tell he is just memorized by the acting.
There are 7 Deleted Scenes with option commentary by director Kevin MacDonald (12 minutes) These scenes include an alternate opening with a boxing match. It would have changed the feeling of the film considerably – starting with Idi Amin's background as a boxing champion. The other scenes are minor extensions of scenes such as the press conference, bar scene and misc others. There's nothing here that's good enough to have kept in the film, but the different opening scene certainly would have made it feel more like the Idi Amin story than the fictitious Nicholas Garrigan story.
Capturing Idi Amin (29:04 in high definition and standard definition) is a BBC documentary is a mix of behind the scenes footage while the film was being made and comments from locals, actors and others. It really is more accurate than the movie – making a point in several areas that this is a fictional story in a historical setting. For me, it was more fascinating watching this film and hearing from native Ugandan people than watching a fictionalized version in film. Even Forest Whitaker seemed a little irritated that such blatant dramatic license was taken.
Forest Whitaker: Idi Amin (5:59 in standard definition) is an unremarkable studio behind the scenes promo piece interviews Whitaker and McAvoy about Amin. It does serve to feature some of the best acting of Forest Whitaker's career. The first 30 seconds of Fox Movie Channel Presents: Casting Session – the Last King of Scotland (8:36 in standard definition) are a bad promo for the Fox Movie Channel, however the remainder of the clip goes into some detail about casting. The director makes a statement that really should have been used more often to avoid expectations of a factual film about Idi Amin. He states that this film is “a thriller set in the 1970's in the world of Idi Amin”. In many ways this is has some of the more fascinating interactions with Whitaker about his acting process and staying in character. And finally, you have the Theatrical Trailer (2:17 in standard definition)