Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Amazing Grace

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
6 out of 10
Extras Rating:
6 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

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Rating: PG

Starring:
Ioan Gruffudd as William Wilberforce
Romola Garai as Barbara Wilberforce
Benedict Cumberbatch as Pitt the Younger
Albert Finney as John Newton
Michael Gambon as Lord Charles Fox
Rufus Sewell as Thomas Clarkson
Youssou N'Dour as Oloudaqh Equiano
Ciarán Hinds as Lord Tarleton
Toby Jones as Duke of Clarence
Nicholas Farrell as Henry Thornton
Sylvestra Le Touzel as Marianne Thornton
Jeremy Swift as Richard the Butler
Stephen Campbell Moore as James Stephen
Bill Paterson as Lord Dundas
Nicholas Day as William Dolben

Special Features:
Commentary with Director Michael Apted and Actor Ioan Gruffudd
How Sweet The Sound: The Story of Amazing Grace
Finding Freedom: A Tour of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Amazing Grace – Performed by Chris Tomlin
Amazing Grace Partners
Interactive Discussion Tools and Study Guides
Discussion Guide Clips

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 111 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD description:

"From the makers of Ray, 'Amazing Grace' tells the inspiring story of William Wilberforce and his passion and perseverance to pass a law ending the slave trade in the late 18th century. Several friends, including Wilberforce's minister, a reformed slave ship captain who penned the beloved hymn Amazing Grace, urge him to see the cause through."

"Amazing Grace" is rated PG for thematic material involving slavery, and some mild language.

Mini-Review:
When I first got this movie, I was expecting it to be about John Newton, the former slave ship captain that wrote the song "Amazing Grace." While he does make an appearance, the film is primarily about William Wilberforce and his drive to end slavery in Great Britain. I had to shift my expectations of this film, but it was still a compelling story.

Ioan Gruffudd delivers an excellent performance as William Wilberforce. He portrays the man from his youth up until his death at an older age. Gruffudd is passionate, earnest, and likable in his role. He even gets a little bit of romance thrown into the mix. He's supported by an excellent cast that includes Albert Finney as John Newton, Michael Gambon as Lord Charles Fox, and Rufus Sewell as Thomas Clarkson.

One thing I liked about "Amazing Grace" was the political twist that took place at the end. Wilberforce and his allies take British hatred for the French and use it to secretly get them to agree to a new law that will end up wiping out 80% of the slave trade. It was a great example of taking the convoluted political process and making it work for good. "Amazing Grace" also features fantastic sets, impressive costumes, and a memorable score.

I did have a couple of minor gripes with this film. It jumps around in time with little warning and it's hard to tell when in the timeline everything is taking place. Your only clue to the time in the story is the color of Gruffudd's hair. My other minor gripe was that when the characters sing "Amazing Grace," it is not the version that was sung at the time. They sing the modern version of it. For a historical film, that's a big error.

I'd recommend "Amazing Grace" to anyone that likes period films, Ioan Gruffudd fans, or anyone that has an interest in the abolishment of slavery.

There aren't many bonus features on this DVD. You'll find your standard commentary and a "making of" featurette. There is also a tour of the Underground Railroad museum, but this seems out of place since the film covered more of Britain's role in slavery. Rounding out the bonus features is a series of discussion and study guides for the DVD ROM.

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