Amazing Grace: Movie Review
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How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost,
but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.
Most have heard the words of this hymn written by John Newton, a former slave ship captain. But many may not know the history behind this famous song. A new movie with the same title seeks to clarify its origin and how it empowered one man to revolutionize British policy.
Walden Media, who brought us Charlotte’s Web and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, along with Bristol Bay Productions (the makers of Ray), create a vivid retelling of the events leading up to the end of the slave trade in Amazing Grace.
It’s a historical epic that explores the life of a great hero named William Wilberforce. He’s not a hero of war or conquest, but a true national hero who diplomatically alters the course of history. This bright, young Member of Parliament literally takes on the British government to help put an end to slavery.
Wilberforce is made a tangible hero in Amazing Grace. His many accomplishments in the British Parliament are awe-inspiring. Wilberforce’s passionate pursuit to halt the slave trade within the British Empire was a slow and arduous process that took many years to complete. And though Wilberforce’s thrilling fight on the floor of parliament seems never-ending, this movie has a momentum that will engage its viewers.
Director Michael Apted conducted each scene so powerfully that it will be etched in your mind. With the help of his crew, Apted transports moviegoers back to a pivotal time in 18th century England. It’s not an easy task to pull off a period piece. But they did their homework on this one and used geninue British stately homes, a centuries old church to recreate the House of Parliament, and authentic wardrobe.
Casting director Nina Gold pulled together a superb cast who all did outstanding work in this new movie. Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced “Yo-an Griff-ith”) leads the group as William Wilberforce. You may recognize this up-and-coming actor as Mr. Fantastic from the Fantastic Four or Lancelot in King Arthur with Clive Owen and Keira Knightley.
Gruffudd’s moving portrayal of the political activist honors Wilberforce’s character and passion. He was not a slick politician who preached campaign points, but one who sacrificed his career and life for a great cause.
According to an article by producer Ken Wales, Gruffudd realized Wilberforce’s passion saying, “…at [Wilberforce’s] core he was a humanitarian, filled with compassion and courage. At only 5’4”, he had a towering presence and an incredible voice.”
Gruffudd brought this significant man to life fittingly showcasing how one life can change history through noble actions. He gives one of the most remarkable performances brought to the screen this year.
Other greats including Michael Gambon (The Good Shepherd), Ciaran Hinds (The Nativity Story), Rufus Sewell (Tristan + Isolde), Romola Garai (Vanity Fair), and Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich, Big Fish) help in bringing this unforgettable story alive on screen extraordinarily well.
Amazing Grace is a fairly clean movie with mild language, including one scene with "the n word," and thematic material involving slavery, alcohol, and gambling (Rated PG). Children in the higher grades of elementary school, teens, and adults will benefit from seeing this film not only for its historical significance, but its faith lessons as well.
Although this movie isn’t a “Christian film,” it has something most movies in theaters do not. A number of the main characters quote Scripture. Their personal faith is of such importance that God’s Word and Biblical principles, such as human dignity and love toward all, permeates the dialogue.
In the film, Wilberforce talks to God and questions his future. Even as a detriment to his health, Wilberforce relentlessly made a case against his country’s unjust policies. His religious convictions and sense of human decency compelled him to persevere even when the situation seemed hopeless.
Regardless of religious faith, audiences nationwide will be inspired by Amazing Grace. This film truly recognizes William Wilberforce’s persevering spirit even in the midst of an unsettling dark part of history. His dedication to exposing the truth opened the eyes of a nation, and the world.
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