Magazine article The Christian Century

Freedom Fighters

Magazine article The Christian Century

Freedom Fighters

Article excerpt

JUST ABOUT every marketing card seemed to be stacked against Amazing Grace. It's not just that the film is a costume set in England at the turn of the 19th century, or that there are no big-name American actors in the east (plenty of Jane Austen adaptations have thrived in similar circumstances). The real obstacle is the setting: it's a movie about British politicians, in wigs, and the inner maneuverings of the British Parliament. Moreover, Amazing Grace speaks openly of Christian faith and the Bible's demands for justice for all people--not a recipe for a blockbuster. Yet the film is genuinely inspiring.

Directed by Michael Apted, Amazing Grace tells the story of William Wilberforce, a nouveau riche member of Parliament who fought to abolish the slave trade in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Wilberforce (passionately portrayed by Welsh star Ioan Gruffudd) is an adult convert to Christianity who becomes increasingly certain that God has called him to abolish slavery. Together with some pious friends from Clapham and his ambitious schoolmate William Pitt (who becomes one of the youngest prime ministers in British history), Wilberforce embarks on what seems a foolhardy campaign: convincing his fellow MPs, many of whose pockets are lined with profits from sugar plantations, that the slave trade is immoral. The film was released on February 23--the 200th anniversary of the day that Parliament finally passed antislavery legislation that Wilberforce had been introducing almost annually for years.

This cinematic Wilberforce seems a bit too much of a saint and a bit too modern. We see him saving lame animals, hanging out with his servants and compulsively feeding the needy. But Wilberforce was indeed a man whose social views were ahead of his time. In life as in the film his activism came at the price of his health, which was poor to begin with and further weakened by the laudanum he became addicted to while trying to ease the pain. (Wilberforce's trials as depicted in the film aren't the half of it; Eric Metaxas's new biography Amazing Grace goes into greater depth about the MP's considerable impediments and heartaches.)

The cast is a veritable Who's Who of the BBC: Ciaran Hinds, Michael Gambon, Albert Finney, Nicholas Farrell and Benedict Cumberbatch (playing Pitt) all perform to the highest standard. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.