Amazing Grace tells the story of how William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) persuaded the House of Commons after a series of attempts to end the slave trade in the British Empire. Alas, the subject matter is far more interesting than the execution. Slavery has been a topic imbedded in cinematic history since DW Griffiths’ 1915 Klan recruitment epic The Birth of a Nation. Director Michael Apted acknowledges Britain’s historical acquiescence to slavery while foolishly relegating the harsh realities of slavery in favour of rather staid criticism of the internal workings of the British parliament.
Hindering the story even more is an irrelevant love story between Wilberforce and Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai). The heroes are nearly all white. The only black character is prominent freed slave and author Oloudaqh Equiano (Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour making his acting debut) who rather conveniently dies of sorrow mid-way through a parliamentary campaign. On the plus side is the performance of Albert Finney as a reformed slave-trader who wrote the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’. It’s a film bogged down with staid dialogue that reeks of horse manure.
Selected release from Fri 23 Mar.