Movie Review – Amazing Grace (2007)


Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace is a biopic of William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd of Fantastic Four fame), a devoted abolitionist in late 18th (and early 19th) century England. The film is directed by veteran Michael Apted (Nell, The World is Not Enough). The film is adequate, but so terribly bland that it is, in fact, slightly less interesting than my high school History classes.

The film opens with Wilberforce being stricken with some kind of affliction, dejected over the fact that he has been unable to get his abolitionist agenda passed in Parliament. We mostly see his early struggles through flashback. His friends think that introducing him to a like-minded woman (Romola Garai) might help. Wilberforce, energized mostly by the changing political climate, renews his fight against slavery. In a side plot, one of Wilberforce’s friends (Albert Finney) is the former captain of a slave vessel and now a priest, who has penned the song “Amazing Grace.” We hear the song about two times too many during the course of the film.

The film gives us exactly what we would expect: some witty dialogue and good acting. The recreation of the time period is detailed and believable. Unfortunately, this is very much workmanlike filmmaking. Although there is nothing in the film that makes you cringe, there is absolutely nothing in the film that pops out or is in the least bit memorable.

Wilberforce is pretty much dedicated singularly to the abolition of slavery. He does have a couple of quirks, such as his love of animals and nature, but, truth be told, he is not the most complex individual. A good biography should show you all aspects of the subject’s character, warts and all. I do not know enough about the real Wilberforce to know if he had any flaws, but there are none to be seen in this film.

The most interesting parts of the films are the recreation of the Parliamentary debates concerning abolition. There is something fun about watching the members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords yell at each other from across the aisle. Wilberforce’s tricks and political maneuvers are fascinating as well. However, I still can’t shake the feeling that I would not have been as interested if I wasn’t learning something. Again, how is this film better than a history lecture?

If you are particularly interested in the time period or subject matter, then you would probably enjoy this film. Otherwise, I simply cannot recommend it.

2 stars

One response to “Movie Review – Amazing Grace (2007)

  1. Excellent Movie, it’s a pity nobody will see it due to the terrible marketing job.

    The ads on TV are useless and no one I’ve talked to seem to realize that this movie is about freeing the Slaves. They all think the movie is about the guy who wrote the song Amazing Grace (based on the useless ads they’d seen on TV).

    When they realize this is a movie about freeing the slaves EVERYONE is suddenly interested in seeing it.

    How sad that Walden Media who created such a moving wonderful work of art, hired marketeers with absolutely no marketing experience. This could have been a movie as big as Schindler’s List or Malcolm X. History Teachers would have taken their kids to see it. All the Hollywood elite would have found it necessary to praise it lest they be considered racists. Every African American Church would have sent people to see it. Every liberal and conservative political group would have gone to see it. It would have been the big topic on The View, on Good Morning America and Larry King and most AM talk shows. Even the Academy despite their biases would have been forced to consider it for some sort of a nomination for an Oscar.

    All Walden Media had to do was add a tag line like: The First Fight to Free the slaves. Or before the Slaves were Freed in the US, they battle had to be fought in England. Then push it as a Freedom of the Slaves movie. They could even had had a special section on the end that talks about the atrocities of slavery still happening today, like the female sex slave trade. But sadly know one knows the movie even exists.

    If anyone knows how to get hold of Micheal Flaherty, head of Walden Media or someone who works there…please pass this on. It’s not too late yet.


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