Drama PG Running time: 1:58
IMDB rating: 7.5 Aspect: Wide; Languages: English, French; Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Audio: DD 5.1
In this inspirational costume drama, Michael Apted (49 Up) recounts a period in British history sure to be unfamiliar to most Americans. In fact, his eye-opening biography of 18th century abolitionist William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) is likely to come as a revelation to many Britons, as well. After all, despite the presence of his wife, Barbara (Romola Garai), this isn't a particularly "sexy" story, but it is a powerful one. The title comes from John Newton's hymn Amazing Grace ("I once was lost but now am found"). Newton (Albert Finney) was a former slaveholder, who became a clergyman and spent his days repenting. While America had John Brown, England had Wilberforce, and Newton is one of many who helped the MP to abolish slavery in the UK. The story begins towards the end of Wilberforce's mission when he's sick with colitis and addicted to laudanum. Apted continues to alternate between 1797 and 1789, when Wilberforce was fitter and more idealistic, and ends in 1807 as his efforts come to fruition. Apted and writer Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things) do right by their hero. Unlike Amistad, however, slaves are largely off-screen, with the exception of author Equiano (Senegalese vocalist Youssou N'Dour). Amazing Grace reserves its focus for the politicians who risked their reps for the greater good, like Wilberforce and Prime Minister Pitt (an excellent Benedict Cumberbatch), and those more concerned with the income slavery provided their constituents, like Lord Tarleton (Ciar·n Hinds) and the Duke of Clarence (Toby Jones).