2.26.2007

Review: "Amazing Grace," How Sweet the Film

I've anticipated this movie for a while, and jumped on the opportunity to see it opening weekend, just one day short of the 200-year anniversary of Parliament's passage of the Slave Trade Act. Thankfully, my enthusiasm was rewarded.

"Amazing Grace" is far more than a story of the well-known hymn. It is the story of William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), a man willing to stand up for the truth regarding the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 18th century.

A man of compassion to both men and animals, Wilberforce, elected to the House of Commons at age 21, struggles with his future. He finds he'd rather sit in the wet grass praying and studying "bloody spider's webs" than playing politics.

As he considers whether to pursue his faith or continue down the political road, those realizing his potential as a proponent for the abolition of slavery take the opportunity to confront him, stating, "We humbly suggest that you can do both."

In times of spiritual doubt, Wilberforce visits his old preacher, John Newton (Albert Finney), former slave trader-turned-Christian and author of the hymn "Amazing Grace," who still struggles with his "20,000 ghosts," the slaves he helped transport overseas. Newton encourages Wilbeforce to continue with his calling, to "blow their filthy ships out of the water."

Wilberforce becomes a force to be reckoned with on his mission to stop the injustice he sees. He is slowed, both by aggravation at being unable to sway his opponents for their fear of money loss, and by health issues as he struggles with colitis. But he finds his voice again upon meeting a young lady, Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai), who would become his wife.

His 20-year battle culminates in a victory in March of 1807, when the parliament finally votes to abolish the trade.

"Amazing Grace" is well-acted, well-scripted and beautifully set. However, given the subject matter, some may fear a tearful storyline. Part of the beauty in the scripting is how nicely woven were both Christian hope and classic British humor, without losing any poignancy of the story itself or the harsh realities of slave trading.

Take time to see, and to soak in, this incredible and important film, rated PG for thematic material involving slavery, and some mild language.

Please click the banner below for more on the movie, enjoy the words of the song and scroll down to see how Wilberforce's legacy is being carried on today...

Amazing Grace
by John Newton, former slave ship captain

Amazing Grace (How sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev'd;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ'd!

Thro' many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall profess, within the vail,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call'd me here below,
Will be for ever mine.

In conjunction with the release of this film was the The Amazing Change campaign. This was an effort to bring awareness to and the end of modern day slavery across the globe. As of this writing it was estimated that there were at least 27 million slaves in the world. Please educate yourself on the ongoing issue of human trafficking, and pray for God's enabling to be a force for change in our world today.

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