DVD Review: Last King of Scotland

Idi Amin Dada was, from 1971 to 1979, the President of Uganda. President is a little misleading, as Amin came to power via a military coup. His reign is famous for it’s brutality. An estimated 300,000 to 500,000 were put to death under his rule.

In the Last King of Scotland, Forest Whitaker plays the Ugandan dictator and steals the show.

It is Whitaker’s mesmerizing performance gives The Last King of Scotland a boost and takes the film from being a modest fictional account of infamous Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, to one that draws the viewer in, not letting go until the last frame of film has passed. This is truly a case of one performance elevating a movie to another level entirely.

The film is told from the perspective of Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), a young Scottish doctor acting as the personal physician of Amin. For the record, there never such a person, but his addition gives a human perspective to the atrocities that occurred, since we witness things with him.

Whitaker’s performance of Amin is amazing. He delivers a complex portrayal of a very charismatic, very paranoid ruler. It is easy to see how Amin drew people in but, in the blink of an eye, his capacity for incredible violence is all too clear.

One thing I really must give praise for is the restraint Macdonald showed in terms of violence and brutality. It would have been very easy to go overboard with the gore. Instead, much of the violence is implied. An excellent job is done of creating a very tense setting with an inescapable sense of dread that builds as the film progresses.

The Last King of Scotland is certainly worth seeing, but don’t confuse the Oscar-worthy performance with this being an Oscar-worthy film.

The extras include some deleted scenes that were shed due to time constraints. These are mainly minor character scenes, but still worth watching. Director Kevin MacDonald provides commentary (optional) that is interesting.

MacDonald also has a commentary track for the film that has its moments. Not to knock the director, but I would have enjoyed hearing the thoughts of Mr. Whitaker instead, or at least in addition.

We also get a few featurettes: Capturing Idi Amin is around thirty minutes and gives us a behind scenes look, as well as providing some historical data. The most interesting part of this is some comments from various locals. This helps hammer home the impact the brutal dictator had.

The other two are much shorter and look at the cast and their performances. One, “Forest Whitaker: Idi Amin”, has Forest offering his thoughts on the role and his approach to it. The other, “Fox Movie Channel Casting Session”, is a mix of interviews with supporting cast members.

I would suggest seeing The Last King of Scotland. If for no other reason than it is the film that got Forest Whitaker the praise he so richly deserved.

Jeremy Lynch

Click here to order The Last King of Scotland from Amazon.