I want to give you all a heads up on a must see movie that will givethe word sacrifice a new meaning... after you see this movie with your families. It is not only of historical value to all of us, but it is also a demonstration of a man's sacrifice against the odds and how God's hands guided him like He guides us.
Please consider going to see this movie (and let it touch your hearts) and let the Lord do the rest.
Your brother in Christ,
Here is a review of the movie (or you can go to this link):
posted 2/23/07 |
Similar to Chariots of Fire and Shadowlands in tone, Amazing Grace balances faith and filmmaking in a historical drama that depicts an ordinary Christian doing extraordinary things because of his beliefs.
For those unfamiliar with the lead character, William Wilberforce was elected to British Parliament in the late 18th century at the age of 21. Some years after that, he underwent an experience that brought him back to the Christian faith—to the point where he was prepared to leave politics behind to fully devote his life to God as a clergyman or monk. His friend from college (and future Prime Minister) William Pitt tries to convince Wilberforce to stay in Parliament because he's such a gifted orator, as seen in several debates on the floor. Pitt asks, "Will you use your beautiful voice to praise the Lord or change the world?"
To quote another character in the film, "We suggest you can do both."
Ioan Gruffudd as Wilberforce
The principled Wilberforce makes it clear early on that he is privately opposed to Britain's thriving slave trade, and several prominent abolitionists of the era (Thomas Clarkson, Olaudah Equiano) do their best to gain his support. In this film, it is John Newton—a former slave ship captain and the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace"—that ultimately convinces his friend Wilberforce to take up the cause for reasons both moral and spiritual.
And so he does, but at what cost? The British abolitionists become the world's most vocal opponents to slavery, causing Wilberforce to lose popularity with many of his countrymen and colleagues. Some even label him a seditionist—a serious accusation at the time with the newly established United States, an imminent French Revolution, and a mentally ill King George ruling England. Which are precisely the reasons Clarkson suggests to Wilberforce that revolution may be the best way to instigate change.
Wilberforce with Barbara Spooner (Romoa Garai)
It's enough to drive a crusader to sickness, as both Wilberforce's health and cause begin to fail about the same time. We know how this story ends, but it's nonetheless compelling to watch the famed abolitionist's uphill battle to maintain his passion and fervor and see his calling through to the end of slavery—a worldwide blight on humankind that still goes on to this day.
The screenplay by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things) succeeds in capturing the essence of Wilberforce and his accomplishments, never shying away from the man's faith but never making it the central component either—just as Eric Liddell's refusal to run on the Sabbath was vital but not paramount to Chariots of Fire.
Amazing Grace seems more honest because of such balance, and acclaimed director Michael Apted (whose previous credits include Coal Miner's Daughter, several documentaries, and a James Bond movie) succeeds in rendering the story with authenticity. There's something to be said for a film that succeeds in making Parliamentary legislation suspenseful, even when you know the ultimate outcome. It also helps that chunks of the movie are told in flashback to add urgency and weight to the storytelling—a straight timeline would have been less interesting.
Albert Finney is brilliant in the role of John Newton
Some parts run a little dry, but the film avoids falling into a dull rut. Scenes of Wilberforce as politician are inspiring like a Capra film, yet tempered with scenes of Wilberforce the college buddy and family man—Christians will especially appreciate a scene where our protagonist spends time outside his home in quiet time with God. Descriptions of the harsh conditions on a slave ship are quite sobering, and Newton's grief for past transgressions (and joyful response to God's grace) are especially touching.
There's also room for levity with charming quips from Pitt, Clarkson, and Fox, not to mention a sweetly handled romance in the form of Wilberforce's budding relationship with Barbara Spooner, who later became his wife. Their shared private joke is chuckle-worthy, as is their attempts to find a reason not to fall in love.
William impresses his colleagues with an anti-slavery petition
Such qualities are expertly carried by an Oscar-worthy cast, which probably shouldn't be surprising with so many familiar British thespians involved. Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) is an inspired choice as Wilberforce—charismatic, charming, yet bringing just the right amount of gravitas to the part. It's nice to see Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist) play some of the comedic relief as Clarkson, after portraying the nemesis in so many films. Speaking of, Ciaran Hinds (The Nativity Story) plays smug so well as Wilberforce's chief opponent. And Michael Gambon (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) charms in the small part of Lord Fox. But it's the performance of Albert Finney (Erin Brokovich) as Newton that has most people buzzing—though he's only in two scenes, he's the movie's best (though long shot) chance for awards season next year.
The only thing missing here is the sort of inspired moviemaking that sets apart a landmark motion picture. Chariot of Fire had those scenes on the beach and an unforgettable score. Amazing Grace has an impressive finale with a bagpipe band, but that's not enough. Like Shadowlands, it's played rather straight-laced and predictably, like a glorified Masterpiece Theater special on BBC or PBS. That's primarily what keeps this movie from earning our highest rating, but it's certainly not enough to dampen a whole-hearted recommendation.
What's particularly interesting about Amazing Grace is that the abolition of slavery is the driving force behind it, yet the movie is more about one man's response to injustice—thus hopefully inspiring reactions of our own. It's an example of how we're called to step out of our comfort zones, even when our words and actions are not easily embraced. It's a well-told cinematic example of a man who used his faith and God-given opportunities to change the world for good.
1. What are your thoughts about Wilberforce's prayer time in his backyard garden (see Matthew 6:5-7)? Does God provide an answer to his prayer? In what form?
2. In the movie, Wilberforce describes his life as changed by God—"He found me." Is Wilberforce's initial response proper or misguided? Are we called to a life of piety, or to serve as the hands and feet of God? What does it mean to be "in the world, not of it," and how do we avoid "cocooning"?
3. Wilberforce makes many "unpopular" decisions in this story. Would you have done the same under similar circumstances? What about pressures to your health or your individual freedom? What temptations does Wilberforce face in his efforts? How do we find the courage to press on for what's right? What guidance do we have?
4. Wilberforce helped spark change that affected world history and social justice for good. Where does such change begin? What qualities need to be secure in order to take such action?
5. Wilberforce is depicted as a skilled orator. What makes him so effective? Wit? Intelligence? Persistence? His faith? What can we learn from the manner in which he engaged his opponents? Do you believe Wilberforce wins his cause honorably? Does he "cheat," as said in the film, or is he simply playing to the faults of his opponents?
6. John Newton tells Wilberforce that faith sometimes comes more like a slow drip than a bolt of lightning. Do you agree? Can you give examples in your own life? Is either more or less powerful than the other?
7. Read 1 Timothy chapters 1 and 4. In what ways does Wilberforce characterize Paul's instructions to Timothy?
Amazing Grace is rated PG and suitable for most audiences. There are some graphic descriptions of how the slaves were treated on the ships, but no violence is depicted other than a man beating a horse off screen. Words like "hell," "damn," "ass," and "nigger" are used, but sparingly. Viewers under 12 or so will likely be bored by the film's historic content and talky tone, but can otherwise handle it if they're familiar with the subject of slavery from school.