MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Ioan Gruffudd as WILLIAM WILBERFORCE
Romola Garai as BARBARA WILBERFORCE
Benedict Cumberbatch as PITT THE YOUNGER
Albert Finney as JOHN NEWTON
Michael Gambon as LORD CHARLES FOX
Rufus Sewell as THOMAS CLARKSON
Directed by: Michael Apted
BY KEVIN CARR
I don’t think there’s anyone out there that will take issue with the messages found in “Amazing Grace.” With the exception of a few nut-jobs in this country (and the numerous folks around the world that still practice some form of slavery), I think we can all agree that slavery is an abhorrent concept.
However, that doesn’t make “Amazing Grace” a great film. Sure, it chronicles the crusade of William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) as he tries to abolish the slave trade in jolly ol’ England. But like a lawyer friend of mine has said, watching laws being made is like watching sausage being made.
There’s a lot of good intentions behind “Amazing Grace,” but the movie’s a bore, swirling into the minutia of antiquated British law. For historians and PBS buffs, this film will be a thrill, but for the rest of the viewing audience, its nothing more than a sequence of political tricks that – while accurate, no doubt – hold about as much thrill as a soggy tuna fish sandwich.
The acting is excellent, precisely what you’d expect from a British costume drama. Ioan Gruffudd isn’t the lynchpin, although he does a fine job. The real fine work is done by Albert Finney and Ciaran Hinds as the antagonist Lord trying to retain the slave trade to continue economic prosperity.
With only fleeting flashes to the reality of slavery, this film commits the cardinal sin of movies by talking rather than showing. Imagine 100 years from now there being a film about the great abortion debate, and instead of actual real-life drama, all we see is our stuffy politicians flopping around the House and Senate floor. That’s pretty much the same here.
The DVD comes with some extended featurettes about the history behind the film, as well as study options for teachers and families that wish to discuss the issue. Ultimately, the special features offer more excitement than the film itself.