Amazing Grace

Movie Review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Romola Garai, Benedict Cumberbatch, Albert Finney
Director: Michael Apted

The story of William Wilberforce’s lifelong campaign to end slavery in Great Britain, Amazing Grace is a deserving story to tell. Unfortunately, rather like the hymn of it’s title, it seems to have lost its power through repetition.

Ioan Gruffudd and an all-star cast try and inject some life into this rather dull tale. Period drama and politics make uneasy bedfellows as the script cannot seem to decide where the focus of the film should lie. Part biography, part documentary and part love story, this lack of focus dulls the impact of the impressive moments. Unfortunately this too often feels like the wrong story being told — Wilberforce’s tale, although admirable — isn’t as filled with hardship and drama as those he defended. The stories of the treatment of the slaves and the industry of the trade beg to be told, but they remain off-screen here and almost incidental to the less meaty story of Wilberforce himself and his fight to get the bill passed in parliament.

Gruffudd himself is the right combination of firebrand and idealist. His scenes with an excellent Albert Finney lift the film. He more than matches the performances of Michael Gambon and Ciaran Hinds and other familiar Brit faces, showing how wasted he is in such films as King Arthur and Fantastic Four. All the cast are as good as expected and Romola Garai brings a tenderness to her very slight role.

Michael Apted is never the most exciting of directors (TOMORROW NEVER DIES was by far the least interesting Brosnan Bond). Here however he battles a script that has little tension, scant characterisation and not enough originality to overcome its shortcomings.

2 out of 6 stars

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