Behind the Song You Love is a Story You Will Never Forget.
"A must-see. O Magazine
|The idealist wilberforce maneuvers his way through parliament in 19th century england, endeavoring to end the british transatlantic slave trade.|
"Four stars. The Observer
"...[a] satisfying and inspiring historical epic from one of contemporary cinema's best filmmakers. William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Michael Apted, whose claim to fame till now has been the respected 7 UP documentary series, directs this lavish costume drama whose heart is as big as its budget. Though a marked departure, Apted's idealistic interests are well served by the story, which is based on the true tale of the 18th-century British politician William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd, who played Horatio Hornblower in the HORNBLOWER series). Though as a young man Wilberforce is torn between politics and the church, he is inspired to action by John Newton (Albert Finney), a penitent monk who is haunted by his past as a slave-ship captain. Wilberforce makes it his mission to end slavery in the British Empire, and, aided by a small band of radical thinkers and unlikely supporters, he annually presents a bill for abolition to Parliament. When the war with France generates a patriotism in the people that makes opposition to slavery seem seditious, Wilberforce becomes disillusioned, and he retires to his cousin's (Nicholas Farrell) house, physically ill and emotionally destroyed by his perceived failure. When he meets the beautiful and righteous Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai, AS YOU LIKE IT), however, he gains new determination to pursue his dream of abolition. The talented cast includes Michael Gambon as Lord Fox, an old gent who turns out to be more lucid than anyone would have guessed, as well as Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour as Oloudaqh Equiano, a regal former slave turned activist. Terrence Malick (BADLANDS), who produced the film, leaves his mark in the stunning visuals.
Cast & Crew
Movieline's Hollywood Life
"[T]he fun of the movie comes from the political intrigue among a very diverse group of politicians duking it out in Parliament."
New York Times
"It has been confidently directed by Michael Apted, who invest Wilberforce's fight with a strong sense of conviction..."
Sight and Sound
"AMAZING GRACE ostensibly represents Michael Apted's re-engagement with serious dramatic film-making....Solid period drama."
3 stars out of 5 -- "This is an instantly accessible film that never allows melodrama to belittle the powerful story that lies at its core."
3 stars out of 5 -- "Michael Apted's film intrigues both an an intimate character study of William Wilberforce and in highlighting a cause that resulted in a sea change..."
DVD Talk 7 of 10
Apted approaches the subject without the slightest bit of energy, entrusting the actors to breathe their own life into the script and the subject matter to stun the crowds on its own, which works if you just focus in on the acting. With fine supporting help from Albert Finney and Romola Garai (as Wilberforce's love interest and most impassioned listener), and a full-bodied performance from Gruffudd, the acting is impeccable, wallowing in that upper-class British guilt for maximum stiff-upper-lip and combustible bellow...Running a glacial two hours in length, "Grace" wears out its welcome as it belabors the subplots to a point of irritability. Apted doesn't get caught up in the period details, he gets lost in Wilberforce's setbacks. The suspense of the voting and the twists of loyalty just aren't enough to power the drama, and as much as the filmmaker tries, "Grace" never manages to get off the ground...Still, there's little to dislike about "Amazing Grace." History purists will find the details enchanting, period drama fanatics will adore the arm's-length posture of the piece, and the true-life tale is one worth being told.
- Brian Orndorf
ReelViews 7 of 10
As a history lesson, Amazing Grace is okay. It stays reasonably true to the established record with minimal embellishment. However, as motion picture, the film is lacking in several key areas. The presentation is choppy, with lengthy sections devoted to the events occurring during short spans followed by jarring leaps ahead in time. Character development is perfunctory, with most individuals in the film falling into the "good, noble" camp (abolitionists) or the "evil, rapacious" camp (those in favor of continuing the slave trade). This occasionally causes Amazing Grace to play less like a movie and more like a morality play...Apted is without a doubt one of the foremost documentarians working today. His Up Series represents a cinematic hallmark. His feature credits are less certain. He has received praise for Coal Miner's Daughter and Nell, but less favorable reviews for some of his other efforts...He has also directed a generic Brosnan Bond film, The World Is Not Enough. This latest entry on his resume is unremarkable - an introduction to Wilberforce that can serve as a primer to the uninitiated but offers little in the way of narrative or thematic complexity.
- James Berardinelli