Saturday, August 04, 2007

Movie Review: Amazing Grace

amazing grace

Amazing grace How sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me I was once lost But now am found Was blind But now I see - John Newton -

The hymn Amazing Grace is, perhaps, the best known hymn of all time. What is not so well known is that it was penned by a slave trader converted to Christianity - John Newton. The movie Amazing Grace, now showing at our cinemas, is not about John Newton although he is a character in the film. It is the story of the life of William Wilberforce, a parliamentarian in 18th century England, who fought to outlaw the slave trade in England. Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffud) is only 21 years old when he begins to speak out against slavery. John Newton (Albert Finney) is Wilberforce’s best friend who has withdrawn from the world, living in a church, living with deep regret about his involvement in the slave trade and the many who died. Wilberforce visits him for advice about whether he should become a man of God by entering a monastery or work as a politician to fight against slavery. Newton draws no punches - he tells Wilberforce that he must do everything he can to bring the slave trade to an end. So Wilberforce sets out to do just that. The economy of 18th century England is highly dependent on the slave trade. So Wilberforce does not have a popular message and England become divided over the issue. His whole life becomes an obsession to end slavery - nearly causing his death as his health declines. But he finds love when he meets Barbara (Romola Garai) who shares his passion to end slavery. Amazing Grace tries to be an epic movie but fails to reach the dramatic heights it should. It is enjoyable enough but the actors do not seem to be able to convey the power or depth of this truly great story. For me, it seemed more like what one would see in a television mini-series rather than great cinema. A story like Amazing Grace should leave us sitting in the cinema at the end inspired and moved. But it did none of those things for me. Amazing Grace is worth seeing because it is an important historical event that should resonate with contemporary issues around racism and presents a story where a Christian truly demonstrates what Christianity should be about - liberation - of the oppressed, the outcast, the disadvantaged. The Christian message is all about amazing grace. Often, though, that grace is obscured by human evil. The story of William Wilberforce is one moment in history where that amazing grace shone through and we need to celebrate it by practicing that amazing grace in our lives today. My Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5) Positive Review ’An unusually satisfying and inspiring historical epic from one of contemporary cinema’s best filmmakers.’ - William Arnold/Seattle Post-Intelligencer Negative Review ’[Apted] also has an unfortunate penchant for bland stateliness, and never more so than in Amazing Grace, a well-intentioned piece of historical waxworks.’ - Peter Rainer/Christian Science Monitor Content Advice Thematic material involving slavery, and some mild language AUS: PG USA: PG Related Links

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