Amazing Grace is a dull 18th century set biopic based on the extremely passionate political activist and Parliament rabble rouser William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), who was driven by his faith in God, compassion for humanity, and desire for justice to see through the abolition of the slave trade in Great Britain.
The viewer first meets Wilberforce in a state of ill health, and with the use of a generic biopic device the viewer is then taken back 15 years to see how he was convinced to take on the cause of abolition after witnessing the inhumane conditions which the African slaves had to “live” in.
After deliberating whether to fight for the cause as a man of religion or a man of politics, he seeks advice from his old preacher John Newton (Albert Finney), a former slave boat captain who penned the hymn Amazing Grace after witnessing the brutal conditions subjected to the unwilling Africans. He convinces Wilberforce that the only way to rid the nation of slavery is to take the fight to Parliament, which is exactly what he does facing staunch opposition in the process.
Considering the films talent, production value and subject matter, Amazing Grace fails to stir the soul upon completion. A lot of its faults stems from the fact that the film is full of generic biopic story devices, which in turn creates a dull and predictable experience which left will leave viewers bored and unmoved.
As fas as the look of the film is concerned, Amazing Grace is on top of its game. Production designer Charles Wood has created a strong, colonial look for the film, while costume and set designers Jenny Beovan and Eliza Solesbury follow suit accordingly.
However, it just seems to be too much for director Michael Apted, who in his attempt to take in all of the films grand scenery inadvertently ignores the films emotional core. This is especially so concerning Remi Adefarasin’s rich and vibrant photography which overshadows the film.
The performances are solid all around, especially by Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd who has not been able to show his talent in the Fantastic Four movies. Benedict Cumberbatch provides strong support, as do Michael Gambon and Albert Finney who shine in smaller roles.
Yet these occurrences aside, Amazing Grace proves to be an invaluable history lesson, but a rather boring film.