Amazing Grace: A Movie Review
A life changing abolitionist, William Wilberforce was born to make a difference. He made a difference in the lives of the slaves, the people he encountered along the way, and he has made a difference in my life over 200 years later. Amazing Grace is based on the 18th Century true story of William Wilberforce’s crusade to stop trade-slavery. It is a gripping and compelling movie, focusing on a two-decade struggle as Wilberforce attempted to change the minds of the parliament in the British Empire. Additionally, it provides a glimpse into deep friendships Wilberforce enjoyed with William Pitt, John Newton, and his eventual wife, Barbara Spooner. Amazing Grace additionally takes the viewer into Wilberforce’s spiritual life and the complex decision he felt compelled to make in choosing a political life that would bring justice to the slave trade, or serving God in ministry.
The Nitty Gritty
The title, Amazing Grace, is taken from the song written by ship owner and slave-trader John Newton, played by Albert Finney. Michael Apted directed the movie and Steven Knight wrote the script. The lead character, William Wilberforce, is played by Ioan Gruffudd, Benedict Cumberbatch plays William Pitt, and Romola Garai plays Barbara Spooner. There is quite a large cast of other significant and minor actors and actresses who add to the realism of this period movie. Jenny Beavan oversaw the costume designs, David Arnold directed the music scores, and the set decoration was managed by Eliza Solesbury. Last, the Cinematography was led by Remi Adefarasin. The release date was February 23, 2007, and the opening weekend brought in $ $4,054,542, with an overall gross of $21,208,358, leaving the theaters June 10, 2007, a rather long run for a movie (Internet Movie Database, 2007). Amazing Grace is a film depicting the history of transatlantic slave trade and one man’s obsession with abolishing it in the British Empire with a story behind the song we love.
Character, Plot, and Summary
Wilberforce is addicted to opium as a result of his illness, colitis. There are flashbacks throughout the two-hour production, so the viewer becomes wrapped up in the story immediately, wondering what this mysterious disease is that is affecting poor Wilber, as people closely connected call him. Wilberforce refuses to give up trying to get parliament to abolish slavery, even though he is often defeated through the two decades of working on his cause. His friend, Barbara Spooner, turned girlfriend, turned wife is a true helpmeet to him, as his biggest cheerleader and advisor to keep on going because she is as passionate about freeing the slaves as he is. Additionally, John Newton, once an avid slave trader, later a priest, is the man behind the song Amazing Grace. You cannot help but love his heart as he mourns the 20,000 slaves he brought to Brittan, taking them with him every day for the remainder of his life. William Pitt becomes the youngest Prime Minister, and while his faith is never expressed, his loyalty and love for Wilberforce continues until his death, even though at times they were estranged a little bit. The entire cast gathers together to make this movie and create n authentic period piece full of white wigs, full dresses, and slang words we dare not speak now.
While I have not yet had time to watch Amazing Grace a second time, I plan to because there were lines that need to be saved and quoted. One paraphrase that touched me in particular is when a woman leaned over the table and told Wilberforce he could do both after he expressed indecision over where to focus his energy. That packed a punch with my soul. The second statement I scribbled down is that if we make one thing better in the world, everything is affected and becomes better. The ripple effect would be part of the process for whatever new culture we bring into the world, whether good or bad. This stunned me, and I need to re-watch the movie to get the context and exact quote for an official review on my website. Additionally, I have ordered the movie and the book to read this summer.
I recommend seeing Amazing Grace not once, but two or three times. Perhaps it would even be significant enough to watch every couple of years, if not to be reminded of the impact Wilberforce had on the lives of slaves, but as a means of encouraging a person not to give up their passionate interests. The movie is not only entertaining and historical, but it is thought provoking. My first time to watch was in the classroom, and I took messy notes in the soft glow of the screen light. My second time watching will be at home where I will be able to stop and pause the movie so I may ponder what is said. Amazing Grace was used by the Lord in my life as it brought some surprise encouragement: I do not have to choose between work and earning my Masters in Theology; I can do both. I was feeling conflicted that I needed to make a choice between building my website, attending school, and serving the Lord through my community. I am now planning to do all three and intertwine them in a braid of three cords. Last, adults who love history will especially enjoy the movie, and perhaps older children who are on the academic side. It is not a light and fluffy movie, but one that is rich, offering personal application throughout.
To watch the movie on YouTube, click here
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Amazing Grace. (2006). Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0454776/