Monday, March 12, 2007

Amazing Grace

My family and I went to see Amazing Grace in the theater Friday evening. As luck would have it, 300 was dominating the ticket lines, and we barely made it in time for the opening credits.

The story is told in a combination of the present (early 1800's, not today) and flashbacks, as we see how William Wilberforce changed from a young, reasonably well-off young man just starting out in Parliament, to an ardent abolitionist. Ioan Gruffudd plays Wilberforce sensitively, and we get a glimpse of the toll extracted on his mental and physical constitution as he brings his bill before Parliament year after year, only to have it voted down. Albert Finney appears as John Newton and presents a powerful image of a man who is haunted by "20,000 ghosts". His hymn, Amazing Grace, is a theme that runs through the film.

There is a bit of an anachronism with regard to the hymn -- The tune used in the film, New Britain, while familiar to most Christians today, was not written until 1831 -- well after the events depicted in the film.

Most reviews on Christian blogs have been pretty favorable, but some have criticized the film for giving short shrift to the evangelical faith that impelled Wilberforce to take on the slavery issue. This criticism also appeared in an article I linked to a few days ago, written from a Jewish perspective. After having seen the film, I have to respectfully disagree. The theme of Wilberforce's faith runs through the film, and while it is not a constant drumbeat, it is clearly portrayed.

Amazing Grace is a powerful film and I recommend it highly.


Michael W. Kruse said...

I loved it too, Denis. I think your critique is spot on. I really like the John Newton character. It gives a wonderful portrait.

Denis Hancock said...

Hey Mike -- I see you're able to carve out time from your duties in Louisville to do a little surfing...

I also enjoyed the Newton character (one I got the image of Tom Jones out of my head).