Theres something noble but absent about Michael Apteds historical biography set in the late 18th Century Britain. Amazing Grace, a filmic beacon of sound Christian values is told through a familiar and conveniently transpicuous canvas of right and wrong with good and evil being played out by easily discernable white and black hats. Its larger than life premise, prefixed with a true story tips its hat to every humanitarian unthankfully slogging for long hours to change the status quo.
As a history lesson that regards the antislavery movement fought for by political firebrand William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), it is a reasonable adaptation of the facts with minimal flourishes. Recounting the pioneering efforts Wilberforce first led as a youthful, fresh-faced member in the House of Commons at a tender age of 21, the film moves on to his failures and the continued efforts to abolish the slave trade right into his weary, almost spent 30s. Apteds hagiographic gaze of admiration on Wilberforce borders on berthing the man sainthood, an attribute that makes the film feel more cinematic than it already is. But it is this very attribute that Apted rolls on with full steam ahead that makes the character an unyielding force of good with a singular imperative in a world that is ready to abandon the ideals he fervently extols.
The film is undeniably cluttered with religious imagery and spiritual rhetoric and it doesnt hide them. Its very nature of ascending the moral high ground is Apteds tribute to Wilberforce and refuses to address the unflattering notion that his need for change consumed him for the worst and that his political will has been said to have expedited the old British Empires decline.
Perhaps its artlessness is cause for its success. While pretentious musings on contemporary slavery and Black People being exploited by the White Man have been filmed primarily to make an impression on audiences consciousness, most of them and in particular the recent Blood Diamond, has shown that it can moralise and offend at the same time by resorting to hysterics and reformed antiheroes to get its point across. Thank God for Hollywood archetypes like William Wilberforce, for mainly sticking it to the stiff upper-lipped patricians in large, circular venues so that claps ring louder and longer.