Amazing Grace: 4 Stars (out of 5)
The film reminded me strongly of Frank Capra‘s magical formula of an innocent man lost in a corrupt world which slowly destroys him. If you’ve seen films like Mr. Deeds Goes to Town you know how the story goes. You know there’s a woman (Romola Garai) who reinvigorates him at his lowest point and helps turn the tide and ultimately win the day.
Ioan Gruffudd is very well cast in the role of Wilberforce, in fact he’s so good I can almost forgive him Fantastic Four (and that’s saying quite a bit). The supporting cast is terrific with Albert Finney, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones, Jeremy Swift, and Rufus Sewell all giving strong performances.
My complaints with the film are minor, but worth mentioning. First, the structure of the film, moving between the film’s present and flashbacks, works in letting Wilberforce tell his story, but it does muddy up the timeline a bit making it difficult at times to determine how much time has passed between each glimpse at the past.
Second, although the chemistry between Gruffudd and Garai is terrific the cutesy onscreen meeting might put several of you into diabetic coma. However, since they work so well together on screen I am willing to forgive them their “cute meet.”
Finally, the film references the song “Amazing Grace” at least five times during the film (which is three times too many). The song is tied to Wilbeforce and his quest, and I get the importance of the song, I got it the first time, and so beating me over the head with it over and over is neither helpful or necessary.
None of these small flaws however can detract but minimally from this engaging, entertaining, and educational film. It’s a smart and well made historical look at the slave trade and abolitionist movement in England during the late 1700’s, and it’s a great testament to Capra-esk storytelling. I can’t think of a better compliment to give it.
Amazing Grace is Rated PG for thematic material involving slavery and some mild language, with a running time of 111 minutes.