Morally irreproachable and flat as a pancake, Michael Apted's Amazing Grace is set among bickering House of Commoners in late-18th-century London, but the movie belongs squarely in the blooming subgenre of Whites Saving Dark-Skinned Victims of Empire. It is the story of how England was won over to slavery-free sugar imports by William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), a liberal member of Parliament who, being British, talks -- and talks, and talks -- the opposition into submission. Wilberforce, the abolitionist who devoted his life to pushing anti-slave trade legislation through a hostile Parliament terrified of waving goodbye to the British Empire, comes with grade-A hero credentials. Still, he doesn't deserve to be deified, sanctified, and so thoroughly bleached of human blemish that hardened highwaymen and exhausted horses quail before his goodness and mercy -- and that's just in the first 10 minutes. Slackly paced, suffused with tasteful lighting, and weighed down by a surfeit of chat, Amazing Grace hauls us responsibly through the fight to bring the good word to Parliament. Only at the end, spurred to renewed activism by his wife, does Wilberforce mount a grass-roots campaign and -- thank God -- lower his holier-than-thou self to a little means-end dirty work, the stuff that gets things done in all politics, liberal or otherwise.
Michael AptedIoan Gruffudd, Richard Bailey, Alex Blake, Sean Bloc, Stephen Campbell Moore, Robert Roy Collins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Nigel Davey, Nicholas Day, Jazz DhimanSteven KnightJeanney KimSamuel Goldwyn Films LLC