|Amazing Grace (2006)|
When this movie hit the screens in 2006, I have to say that I had never heard of William Wilberforce or of his crusade to end the slave trade in late 18th-century England. While the film is riddled with historical inaccuracy, Amazing Grace is a brilliant experience of a man's return to God and how God used him in politics and religion to open the eyes of the world to the horrors of slavery ;and become the voice of justice and dignity for the people who were oppressed and silenced.
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William Wilberforce has been fighting Parliament for almost 15 years to end the slave trade act that will end the capture and selling of slaves from Africa and the Caribbean Islands. Exhausted and ill with colitis, William has been defeated by the MPs (Members of Parliament) who have once again rejected his request to create a bill to abolish the slave trade. While recuperating at the home of cousin and fellow parliamentarian Henry Thorntan, he is introduced to fellow abolitionist, Barbara Spooner, an independent and like-minded young women who is as passionate in her convictions and her faith as William is. After a disastrous first meeting, Barbara and Wilbur find themselves alone with one another, where Barbara eventually gets William to open up about the genesis of his abolition fight, the people he met and the lives that changed him.
15 years prior to meeting Barbara, William is a young and healthy parliament member with a gift for public speaking, a quick mind and fiery opinion. While he and his best friend, William Pitt are the youngest members in Parliament, they become two men are should not underestimated. A fierce abolitionist, William is one of only a handfew of people who outspoken against the slavery and the slave trade, but oftentimes feels powerless to do nothing. When Wilbur feels God calling him to return to life of religious fervor, William Pitt announces his plan to run for prime minister and then reveals to Wilbur that is he wins, then William's fight to ban the slave trade will be brought to light and maybe have a chance of winning.
Wilberforce seeks advice and council from his former preacher, the famed composer, John Newton, who now lives as a hermit in his old church. John Newton's life as a slaver continues to haunt him endlessly and he knows he will never escape the cries of the innocent people he captured. John tells Wilbur to aid William in his run for prime minister as well as lead the fight against slavery, but warns him that this fight will be long, hard and dirty and Wilbur must be willing to sacrifice his career, family and friends if it means to end the slave trade.
William Pitt introduces Wilbur to several abolitionists including Thomas Clarkson, Hannah Moore and former slave Olaudah Equiano who gives William a first hand account of the slave trade, the cargo ships and the horrific conditions the Africans are forced to endure. Together, they and the newly elected Prime Minister, William Pitt, forge a campaign to end slave trading and they are successful at first, but John Newton's words come true when the fight becomes to hard and Wilbur has now lost his friends and his health to the failing fight.
After Wilberforce ends his story, Barbara refuses to believes that the fight is over. She still sees the passion in Wilbur and insists that he continues, even if it's just the two of them. A month later, Barbara and William are happily married and Wilberforce comes face-to-face with his distant friend, the ageing William Pitt, who informs Wilbur that their old grievances are over and he gives him his full support against Parliament and the House of Lords.
Although Equiano has died, Thomas Clarkson, Hannah Moore, the Thorntans and others return to ally with William. The edition of James Stephen who has personally traveled to the sugar cane fields of Barbados and witnessed the suffering of the slaves as well as their unwavering belief that Wilberforce will set them free only empowers this small band of abolitionists even farther and to fight harder. William also returns to John Newton, who is now blind, but is writing his painful memoirs as a slave trader. Newton relays to William his joy is finally freeing himself from the darkness of his past and his joy in Wilbur's resurrected fight and new marriage.
Finally in 1807, the Slave Trade Act is passed and Wilberforce's 15 year fight has finally come to a successful end which then led up to the complete abolishment of slavery 26 years later in 1833. William died only days after the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 was passed, but he left behind not only the legacy of ending England's slave trade, but also brought social, economic and religious reform, prison reform, cruelty prevention of animals and faithfully following God's plan for him.
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What made this film truly remarkable is the writing and the ability to switch between time periods without getting the audience lost. Not an easy feat for a biopic!The acting on all fronts is phenomenal and the films boasts an all star cast who brilliantly brought these historical characters to life, making them real and personal. The costumes are beautiful and rich in detail and accuracy (I don't care if Barbara's dress is immodest; accuracy is more important). The music is sensational and is one of the most beautiful soundtracks I've heard.
A beautiful and inspirational film that is a definite favorite of mine. Like I said in the beginning, I had never heard of William Wilberforce prior to seeing Amazing Grace, but now I see him as a hero who never backed down or compromised, no matter how bad the situation got. In the film, Christianity is portrayed in a positive light and William's faith in God is the centerpoint of the whole film. I was pleasantly surprised that the film highlighted William's religious devotion to the God that found him in the midst of his personal trials and brought him into the light of unending grace.