Movie Review: Amazing Grace

July 29th, 2007

Amazing Grace is the tale of William Wilberforce, the crusading British MP who was instrumental in the banning of the slave trade. The story picks up in the very late 1790s, with Wilberforce defeated by the pro-slavery forces in parliament. Sickly and defeated, he tells the tale of the early days of his involvement in the movement against slavery, and perhaps rediscover his passion for the cause.

Wilberforce is played by Ioan Gruffod, and inhabits the role well. He plays Wilberforce as a passionate, religious man with a strong sense of right. I suspect that the portrayal differs a bit from historical reality, as my reading is that Wilberforce was actually a bit of a wowser. He deserves an Academy Award nomination.

There are plenty of strong performances. Rufus Sewell in particular is excellent as Thomas Clarkson, and Benedict Cumberbatch is interesting as William Pitt the Younger. Some of the others suffer from a slight tendency to chew on the scenery from time to time, especially Albert Finney as John Newton and Romola Garai as Barbara Spooner.

The script is mostly strong, despite a couple of over-the-top scenes. The historical accuracy is also pretty good for the most part. Although I could list quibbles all day long1, of course.

Overall, a very enjoyable biopic well worth the time.


  1. For instance: Charles Fox dies before passage of the bill, William Pitt is not the one who introduces William to the committee, the House of Lords doesn’t have a single appearance, and the Duke of Clarence wasn’t the Duke of Clarence until 1789…