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Amazing Grace

October 4, 2010

Amazing Grace (2006)
Director: Michael Apted
Actors: Ioan Gruffudd, Romola Garai, Benedict Cumberbatch

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Synopsis: William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) battles to get the abolition of slavery through British parliament.

Review: A remarkably artless film, Amazing Grace takes its educative, historical remit incredibly earnestly as it dramatises in a largely leaden manner the story of the Abolition movement and its prime driver, William Wilberforce. Very little intelligence or foreknowledge of the subject matter is expected of the audience as Apted draws the film’s one-dimensional moral out in really obvious ways: Wilberforce stopping a horse being beaten in an odious opening metaphorical sequence and hammy flashbacks showing slaves toiling on ships. Other critics have argued there is no real black voice in a film supposedly all about the ending of the slave trade – and while in a sense that is true, I have no real qualm with this story’s more specific focus on the political machinations in Westminster, rather than trying to be too PC and dramatically inorganic by shoehorning in a token slave subplot.

The film’s saving grace (pun intended) is in featuring a uniformly strong set of rich and sincere performances from a “who’s who” of British thespian talent: Ioan Gruffud, Romola Garai, Benedict Cumberbatch (brilliant), Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds and Bill Paterson – all working their hardest to make the material break free from its stodgy confines. (October 2010)

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