The Last King of Scotland Blu-ray Review
'Last King' is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
I always expect a high standard of quality with modern movies and I'm pleased to report that I was not disappointed with this release. Clarity and definition are sharp and well presented, especially in the mid-range shots. For example, Amin's spittle can clearly been seen spraying forth during his rants. Facial close-ups expose a lot of fine detail, such as McEvoy's piercing blue eyes and Whitaker's pockmarked face. There's a nice three dimensionality to a couple of the scenes and the mid range shots also provide a pleasing depth. There is plenty of clothing detail on show, with various woven fabrics of the indigenous Ugandan people and Amin's deep green/beige military uniforms exposing individual threads of material.
The colour palette is somewhat restricted by the various filers which McDonald employs and is pastille heavy but there are some scenes, such as those displaying the brilliant turquoise blue of swimming pools and peacocks tails, which look stunningly vibrant. The use of orange/yellow filters adds to the ambience but prevents this release from displaying the full gamut of colour which BD is capable of. Shadow detail in the dark rooms and airport hangers where Amin conducts the seedier side of his presidency is impressive and exposes a lot of detail. The contrast ratio is strong, even if some of the scenes are deliberately overblown, with some nice deep blacks on display during the night time portions of the movie.
There are a couple of long shots (especially during the opening scenes) that appear grainy and a little soft but these scenes add to the overall seventies feel (and authenticity) of the piece, even if they are a little weaker (with regards to picture quality) when compared to others. Some the darker scenes are also of lesser quality, appearing somewhat muddy but thankfully these are not prevalent. The slightly disappointing nature of the aforementioned flaws prevents this release from earning top marks but it comes recommended none the less.
'Last King' is packed with a 5.1 dts HD Master Audio surround track.
Front separation is spot on, with lots of chirping crickets during the “countryside” scenes and cars zooming from right to left sound field during the city based shots. The action orientated portions involve all speakers, with gunfire and shouts echoing around the listening position. Vocals, from the higher pitched Scots twang of Garrigan to the deep bellow of an enraged Amin, are locked to the centre channel and are crystal clear for the duration. Surround activity is pleasing, with ambient and other effects (such as the almost continual buzz of insects) spilling from the back channels with regularity. Some of the scenes, such as those involving the witch doctor (and his maracas) or the cries of persecuted Ugandans, employ the surrounds to a greater degree and serve to really immerse the viewer in aural delight. The sub gets a moderate workout, with a couple of rumbalicious explosions but it's not as active as I would have hoped for in a piece set in a war ravaged land.
The predominantly African orientated score is unusual but suits the piece. There are some nice bass intonations, with tribal drums dominating the soundstage during Amin's first visit to Garrigan's village. Treble is also spot on, with whistles, mid range drums, guitars and wooden xylophones providing perfect stereo reproduction. The funky African beats also bring forth some nice surround bleed and there's even a delightful version of 'Me and Bobby McGee' included!
Overall this is a very pleasing and active surround track, with the score adding to the overall authenticity and enjoyment of the audio presentation.
The extras portion of this Twentieth Century Fox release offers a compact collection of worthwhile features which add insight to the movie itself. The inclusion of a commentary track, an extra which this reviewer feels should be included on every releases (laziness is the only real excuse for the omission of such a track), earns this release some bonus points. Points are lost, however, for the complete lack of high definition content.
The commentary from director Kevin McDonald is both interesting and informative. He explains how he became involved with the project and expands on his directorial techniques. He also discusses working with Whitaker, the promising young McEvoy and the indigenous Ugandan people. He speaks about how he discovered the unique African music which features predominantly and also provides plenty of anecdotes from the set, weaving them with historical facts about Armin. Well worth a listen.
Deleted Scenes - This feature includes seven deleted scenes, with optional commentary from McDonald. “Stone Leaves/Nicolas Prepares” depicts Nicolas visiting a fleeing Stone. The second scene is a longer alternate take on the press conference. I'm not too sure what the third scene is about but which is based on a real event! “Idi's Test/Nicolas' Suit” is a longer version of a scene already in the finished product, as is the fifth deleted scene (“Good Times”). “The Mission” features Nicolas' new abode in Uganda. The last scene, “Uganda 1948”, features Nicolas' escape. The commentary from McDonald adds some value but the majority if the scenes don't add a whole lot to the finished product.
“Capturing Idi Amin” (SD 29mins) - This interesting documentary takes a look at the making of the movie and provides historical background on Uganda and Amin's regime. There are plenty of interviews with McDonald and the rest of the cast. Ugandan cabinet ministers and other indigenous Ugandan people give their opinion of Amin (some actually met him in person) and what kind of person he was. Archive footage (of Armin and Uganda) and backstage footage from the set feature throughout in this very enlightening documentary. Even John Snow features with some top secret Ugandan files!
Forest Whitaker “Idi Amin” (SD 7mins) - This feature revolves around Whitaker, how he recreated the larger than life character of Amin and the role the dictator played in the history of Uganda. McEvoy also expands of his character and both actors discuss the relationship of Amin and the fictitious Dr. Garrigan. Worth watching....once.
“The Movie Channel Presents: Casting Session - The Last King of Scotland” (SD 8mins) - This is a programme from the Fox Movie Channel which takes a look at the casting for the movie. Interviews with the cast, director and producers/casting director, as they discus Amin and the movie are included.
Trailer - Included here is one paltry standard definition trailer for the feature presentation.
'The Last King of Scotland' was released in 2007 and was directed by Kevin McDonald. Most famous for his sterling work on 'Touching the Void', McDonald tackles the story of the infamous Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in this movie. The plot is fast paced and contains enough moments of excitement to keep the viewer glued to the screen for the duration of the run time. The movie's success is without doubt largely due to Forest Whitaker's stunning central performance as Amin. He perfectly projects the monstrous tyrant's charm, volatility and accent to perfection and it's worth watching this movie for his performance alone. James McAvoy does admirably well in the co-lead role of Dr. Garrigan, who becomes trapped as Amin's chief physician and closest advisor. The direction from McDonald, in conjunction with the impressive central performances, means that this movie comes highly recommended.
The transfer is decidedly solid for the duration and exudes clarity and definition in spite of the inclusion of some scenes of a lesser quality. The uncompressed surround track is decidedly active and immersive, with the delightful African orientated score adding to the ambience. The extras package is packed with worthwhile features but disappointingly there's no HD content. Overall this is a very strong package and comes recommended for all fans of the movie.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.59
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