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, 2006
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AMAZING GRACE MOVIEAMAZING GRACE, 2006
Movie Reviews

Directed by: Michael Apted

Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Romola Garai, Benedict Cumberbatch, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell, Thomas Clarkson, Youssou N'Dour , CiarŠn Hinds, Toby Jones, Nicholas Farrell, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Jeremy Swift, Stephen Campbell Moore, Bill Paterson, Nicholas Day
Review by Stefan Leverton

SYNOPSIS:

The idealist William Wilberforce manoeuvres his way through Parliament, endeavouring to end the British transatlantic slave trade.

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REVIEW:

Given the historical impact of the event that this film depicts, I find it very surprising that the film itself isnít a lot bigger and more revered than it is. It seems to have gone under the radar and considering the effect that the end of the slave had, especially in America, itís a wonder that the story hadnít attracted interest in Hollywood. That said Wilberforce himself is so revered locally that perhaps the all star British cast, and the understated yet powerful treatment of the story is possibly a more fitting tribute.

Ioan Gruffudd is the man responsible for bringing William Wilberforce to the screen, and a stand up job he does too. The cast as a whole boast a host of talent that make the film engaging and potent. While the story of parliaments act in 1807 to ban the slave trade across the British empire needs no hyperbole from me, an important human, political, world event that changed the course of history forever.

The film balances that with the story of Wilberforce as he deals with things publicly and privately. He not only struggles with trying the get the act passed but also has the added pressure of coping with what the film calls colitis (now Crohnís disease). At the start we see Wilberforce, suffering horribly from the condition. Rested up but on holiday in Somerset with Cousin Henry Thornton, he is in the company of future wife Barbara Spooner. It is she that pries the story of his political success out of Wilberforce. And so we go back fifteen years to when he was a young, idealistic but popular Member of Parliament (MP). However he is convinced to champion the cause of getting the slave trade outlawed by close associates William Pitt, Hannah More and others which knocks his popularity within the House of Commons.

His cause is blocked by MPís who represent areas directly benefitting from the exploitation that the slave trade presents, those most notably are Liverpool London and Bristol. These are big constituencies with lots of sway politically. Wilberforceís tale talks about how his knowledge increases as he investigates the issue and then tries to increase his support and try to successfully lobby for the trade to be banned. For a long time though it is a frustrating quest but ultimately, as the history books will report, a successful one.

At the point of most frustration the plot returns to its present and Barbara convincing Wilberforce to once again take up the mantel. With a renewed interest, sheer persistence, intellect and mostly of spirit, Wilberforce and his supporters bring about arguably one of the most important political changes in history.

As a film maybe there is little that is remarkable here but certainly everything is consummate. It is simply one of those stories that Ďhasí to be told, a real story of inspiration that literally made the world a better place.

Review by Stefan Leverton 6/03/10


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