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Amazing Grace

  • Film

Time Out says

Although it’s basically a conventional costume biopic with Sunday ‘quality TV’ written all over it, there’s much to admire, and be moved by, in ‘Nell’ director Michael Apted’s bicentennial tribute to the protracted and Herculean efforts of evangelical reformer William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) that led to the passing of the parliamentary bill to abolish the slave trade on March 25 1807.

A ‘Great White Male’ view of history it may be – around whose centre orbit the usual satellites of stalwart supporters (Rufus Sewell’s zealous activist Thomas Clarkson; Romola Garai’s comely, rock-solid wife), villains (Ciarán Hinds’ scowling Lord Tarleton) and eccentric rogues (Michael Gambon’s mischievous Charles James Fox) – and one that relegates the slaves’ horrific story to second place (notably to nightmarish cutaways). But the least you can say for the script by Steven ‘Dirty Pretty Things’ Knight is that it introduces an interesting schizophrenia into Apted’s direction. His boring fidelity to historical accuracy (including the endless, sleep-inducing parliamentary debates) is enlivened by some surprisingly affecting departures, where the actors are allowed to step out of period, as it were, and show their awareness of the contemporary impact of the film’s laudably detailed moral battles. Elsewhere, these anachronisms can be either trite or laughable; there’s more Pete Doherty than Byron in the presentation of Wilberforce’s laudanum addiction.

That aside, Grufudd is fine, passionate and single-minded, though overly Romantic, and quietly upstaged by the extraordinary Benedict Cumberbatch as his lifelong friend Pitt the Younger and Youssou N’Dour’s dignified portrayal of ex-slave Olaudah Equiano. Fine CGI-aided exteriors too, especially of a once mast-filled Thames-side.
Written by Wally Hammond

Release Details

  • Rated:PG
  • Release date:Friday 23 March 2007
  • Duration:118 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Michael Apted
  • Screenwriter:Steven Knight
  • Cast:
    • Ioan Gruffudd
    • Romola Garai
    • Benedict Cumberbatch
    • Albert Finney
    • Michael Gambon
    • Rufus Sewell
    • Youssou N'Dour
    • Ciaran Hinds
    • Toby Jones
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