Saturday, February 24, 2007

Movie Review: Amazing Grace

My daughter and I just got back from seeing Amazing Grace. It's hard to know where to start.

It seems difficult for period films to capture the times they're depicting--especially when it involves the stiff British upper class--while at the same time making the characters seem real to modern audiences. The previews for Marie Antionette looked too much like a bunch of modern kids dressing up in fancy outfits and pretending (badly) to be French aristocracy. Other movies try, like The Man in the Iron Mask, but some of the actors (Leonardo diCaprio) just aren't up to the task.

In Amazing Grace, Ioan Gruffudd, a Welsh man with an equally Welsh name that's impossible to pronounce by any normal English speaker (pronounced: Yo-an Griffith), was the heart and soul of the film. He was the living, breathing, passionate William Wilberforce. And each performance by the supporting players was up to the same excellent level.

There was life in these people, and most of it wasn't the fiery rhetoric of the House of Commons. A glance and a private smile between Wilberforce's brother (played by "Young Aubrey Montague" from Chariots of Fire) and the brother's wife. A snort after a shared joke over dinner. A comfortable conversation, on wet grass, between Wilberforce and Richard the Butler. Little moments that formed a foundation for the larger moments of the film.

What struck me most about William Wilberforce the man, was the way he saw and treated all people as fellow human beings. From the lowliest half a man, to his butler, to the slaves he knew were traded and sold, to him all of them were worthy of life and dignity. But it was his lot in life to fight for over two decades against men who cared only for their own pampered lives and for what use other people were to them.

Amazing Grace is beautifully filmed, beautifully acted, and superbly cast. I smiled, I laughed, I cried, and I applauded with the rest of the audience. I recommend you see it. I'll be seeing it again very soon.


Malott said...

Your post really makes me want to go see this movie.

I checked out the movie stills... They reminded me of another movie you persuaded me to watch. That was good advice, too.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I heard that they really stuck close to the historic material.

I wrote a series of posts, recently, touching upon the movie and the issue of slavery; of how the first real anti-slavery movement began in the West, amongst 12 deeply religious Christians, in London. Thomas Sowell had an excellent review of "Bury the Chains" a couple of years ago (which I linked to), as well as one about a book on Lincoln. Sowell really placed emphasis on how fallible it is to judge the past with today's morals, without understanding the context and constraints that men like Lincoln and Jefferson and Washington had to navigate through. I too think it's wrong to call them hypocrites and be so cynical as to minimize their efforts against slavery.

SkyePuppy said...


I'll have to check out your posts sometime after Thursday (Anatomy Lab Exam).

I agree with you (and Sowell) about judging the past with our sensibilities. I'm sure 200 years from now, people will be horrified by things we do now as a matter of course.