Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace
Ioan Gruffudd, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, Michael Gambon, Benedict Cumberbatch,
Youssour N'Dour, Rufus Swell, Stephen Campbell Moore, Romola Garai and Albert Finney

Rated: PG 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: February 23, 2007 Released by: Samuel Goldwyn Films

Michael Apted's drama weaves in much politics and emotion when it comes to the slavery issue from over two centuries ago.

Ioan Gruffudd portrays William Wilberforce, a jaded Parliament leader and abolitionist, unwavering in spirit, trying to pass a law in 1797 against human trade.

Great Britain is defended by the likes of characters played by Toby Jones (The Painted Veil) and Ciaran Hinds (Phantom of the Opera) on the commercial value of slavery.

Wilberforce has influential friends, including those endowed by Michael Gambon and Benedict Cumberbatch, the latter a fine William Pitt, Britain's youthful Prime Minister. Yet, they had other political needs. William does have the backing of an ex-slave (Youssour N'Dour), a disgraced priest (Rufus Sewell of The Illusionist), and an apprenticing attorney (Stephen Campbell Moore). Romola Garai fills Barbara with a forthright quality that helps him on his passionate crusade.

Apted and screenwriter Steven Wright provide some title cards to indicate the course of events, though the chronology appears to be out of whack considering the time of slavery being abolished versus the law passing against slave trade.

That having been said, the British activism is rather heartfelt and trenchant, even in a contemporary way, given ideas of human trafficking and pre-emptive war strikes. Think about the idea of slavery today in global sense versus what was deemed necessary by many in the late 18th century.

Yes, Amazing Grace may feel more like small-screen fare, or suited to it, rather than the less cumbersome historical tale, and multiple Oscar-nominee, The Queen.

Gruffudd, of Solomon and Gaenor, and maybe best known for the Horatio Hornblower episodic series, has charisma and fine rapport, especially with Garai, even Cumberbatch. Grass-roots platforming in Britain works to achieve vitality, however underwhelming the historical nature of the plot is versus the more potent character study.

Apted works dutifully with his production crew, especially on the design and costumes, quite becoming of the picture's period. Gambon is an energetic presence, and it always helps to have Albert Finney (Big Fish) on hand as the colorful composer of the title hymn.

The battle against human slavery is something that has been taken for granted, and if Apted hasn't made a very compelling tale, there is something inspiring about the means for those politically inclined to do their part to change the world.

  Frank Chris Tony Jim Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Amazing Grace A-     B-       B

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