With heavy rotation of television spots during the Sunday morning news programs, "Amazing Grace" is being perceived as a costume drama from a long time ago. What the ads omit are the contemporary connection "Amazing Grace" will have by entertaining it's audience. This well acted drama speaks about important issues without being condescending or preachy. There is an ethics lesson that reveal that acts of meekness can transform the world.
"Amazing Grace" opens in the British rain as William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) witnesses two brutes beating a tired horse. His accomplice would like him to not get involved, but Wilberforce confronts the brutes with common sense; the horse beaters would accomplish their long tern goal if they let the horse rest for an hour instead of beating the creature. This opening scene best illustrates the major theme of "Amazing Grace."
At this point in his career, Wilberforce has low opinion polls due to his moral conviction. Wilberforce opposes slavery. The courage of his convictions has made Wilberforce a sick man who is forced to rely on an opium mixture to ease his pain. During a late night conversation with young Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai), Wilberforce explains his failures in opposing slavery.
The movie flashbacks to Wilberforce’s younger years (he was elected to Parliament at age 21) and explains his friendship with William Pitt (Benedict Cumberbatch) the youngest ever Prime Minister at age 24. As he learns first hand about the stench of slavery from Thomas Clarkson (Rufus Sewell) Wilberforce forms a political action committee that includes Olaudah Equiano (Youssou N'Dour), a former slave turned best selling author. Providing political pragmatism is Lord Fox (Michael Gambon), a former opponent of Wilberforce. The Wilberforce crusade took twenty five years before Great Britian ended it’s slave trade. Thirty years later President Abraham Lincoln invoked the name of William Wilberforce in a speech and Harriet Beecher Stowe referenced him in her celebrated book, "Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
Fortunately, Director Michael Apted focuses on the man and not the myth. The relationship between William and Barbara grows out of mutual respect from an imperfect blind date. The scenes of Parliament politics has the bite and gamesmanship of the Hannity and Colmes on FOX Cable News. The English countryside is enhanced by the gorgeous cinematography of Remi Adefarasin. All these elements come together to create a modern motion picture experience that made audience members laugh and cry.
Ioan Gruffudd confidently takes the lead and invests soulful intelligence to his interpretations of William Wlberforce. Romola Garai brings forth likeable strength as a young girl who matures into a maternal angel. Veteran actors Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell and Ciarán Hinds provide steely support in memorable character roles. "Amazing Grace" is a special motion picture that clocks in under two hours. The storytelling and attention to detail provides an epic feeling for ticket buyers. "Amazing Grace" is a peaceful "Braveheart." the film reveals the historical truth that good ideas eventually trump the preconceived notions of the status quo.