Amazing Grace

2007-09-21 13:57
What it’s about:

Amazing Grace tells the inspiring story of British parliamentarian William Wilberforce’s fight to abolish slavery 200 years ago.

What we thought of it:

There are up to 27 million slaves in the world today. That’s more than half the population of South Africa. This is clearly an issue that deserves attention, but poses a difficult challenge for a movie industry catering to an audience keener to see Pirates of the Caribbean than Slave Ships of the Caribbean.

This year also marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Britain, so it seemed a fitting time to tell this story on film – but director Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) has cleverly steered the story away from slavery as such, and focused on the story of William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian who fought a 20-year battle to get slavery abolished. This is his story, a sort-of Braveheart-tackles-the-slave trade, and a remarkable one at that.

It’s hardly a complex premise - the good and bad guys are quite apparent and the audience knows who to support. Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) undergoes a moment of religious enlightenment and dedicates himself to a struggle against a cruel and unjust system at huge personal sacrifice. He seeks the advice of a former slave ship captain John Newton (the excellent Albert Finney) who wrote the popular hymn Amazing Grace to atone for his sins.

It could have been exceedingly dull, and the film occasionally becomes sanctimonious while Wilberforce is disturbingly virtuous and Blair-like at times, but nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised at how well Apted told the story, and found it entertaining and so stirring that at times I was nearly moved to tears.

Apart from a few short scenes of the horrific conditions the slaves had to endure, we are treated to a visually sumptuous late 18th-century period piece, excellent performances (including by Youssou N’Dour as a former slave), a romance, and surprisingly enough, even humour. Oh, and of course, a few rousing renditions of Amazing Grace.

The film is a well-crafted and inspiring story about a man with conviction and conscience, an idealist who had faith in what he believed was the right thing to do, and against all odds, finally achieved it, shaping history. The world sorely needs more William Wilberforces today, and if you are looking for an uncomplicated, inspiring, feel-good family film, then this is it.

- Roy McKenzie
Despite the serious and moralistic subject matter, this is actually an entertaining and enthralling period piece.

Hugo 2007/06/11 10:54 AM
The Nigerian Movie Hi There was a similar themed move, possibly of the same name, by a Nigerian bunch about John Newton's experience. I suggest we pair the two.
Peter 2007/06/27 1:32 PM
Amazing Grace This movie was superb, a recommended viewing for all.
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