Thursday, November 21, 2013

Amazing Grace: A Review

Last Saturday, my dad, my sister and I watched Amazing Grace, so today I'm writing a review of it.  My titles are so original, aren't they? ;P
Anyway.  I love this movie--it's now one of my favorites--, so please excuse any enthusiastic, incoherent ramblings on my part. ;)
I first heard of Amazing Grace through Romola Garai.  I had loved her performance in Emma'09, and was curious about other roles she may have played, and I found out about AG.  My dad had heard it enthusiastically recommended by several people, and so we attempted to watch it.  It took us three tries (times we checked it out of the library but had to return it because we ran out of time), but finally we watched it.
I LOVED IT.  This may be one of the very best movies I have ever watched, and it's definitely one of my favorites.
Despite its title, the movie does not revolve around John Newton (although he does make several appearances).  Instead, it's about William Wilberforce ("Wilber") and his fight to abolish the slave trade.
Ioan Gruffudd (pronounced Yo-an Griffith, I think; he's Welsh) stars as Wilber.  He really doesn't look much like the actual Wilberforce (who was short and actually looks more like Benedict Cumberbatch, IMO), but he has everything else to a T.  The charismatic, witty, charming side of Wilberforce is shown, as well as the faith and, later, his bitterness and defeat.
The movie actually starts out with Wilberforce, in ill health and nearly cynical, fifteen years after he started his abolition movement.  It then tells the story of his attempts to abolish the slave trade through flashbacks, and then goes on with the story. This actor played each part perfectly and believably, which really impressed me.  In case you couldn't tell. ;)

Ah, Romola Garai.  The whole reason I wanted to watch this movie in the first place.  Even after I decided that I liked this movie (which was very early on), I was curious about how Romola Garai was going to do.
She blew me away.  She plays Barbara Spooner (later Wilberforce), and I really loved the saucy wit and yet compassionate understanding that she put into the character. (Rather like Emma...although, strange coincidence, this time she's having a match made for her, rather than making one for others.  The tables have been turned. ;P)  She didn't get much screen time, but she stole the show when she did, and her romance with Wilber was so gorgeous.  As was her wedding. *siiiiiiiigh*
And I want her hair.  Also her dresses.  Also her hat.  And I really wouldn't mind living in that time period either...

On my first viewing of this, I honestly had no idea who Benedict Cumberbatch was playing.  I didn't even know that it was Benedict Cumberbatch.  However, that changed on my second watching; I watched the credits and listened to the conversations (and did some research), and quickly found out
who he was.  He was quite interesting as William Pitt the younger.  His close friendship with Wilberforce was shown, as were his political ambitions and growing uneasiness about Wilber's cause.  Again, he played the character to perfection.

I was pretty much jumping up and down throughout the beginning credits because there were so many period drama actors I recognized.  There was Romola Garai, of course, but there were also Ciaran Hinds (Captain Wentworth in Persuasion 1995, among other things) and Michael Gambon.  When I saw his name, I just said, "SQUEEP EMMA'S FATHER IS IN THIS IT'S SO PERFECT."
Which pretty much sums up my feelings on the matter.  He plays Lord Fox (who is not in the habit of putting other politicians in the stocks...sorry, I couldn't resist.  You'll get this if you've seen the movie. ;)), one of Pitt's and Wilberforce's biggest political enemies.  This is actually not accurate, as the real Fox was dead before the abolition movement succeeded, but I honestly didn't care that much.  Michael Gambon just brought the character to life and I, as usual, was impressed.

Albert Finney was the other older star who has been much remarked on.  He plays John Newton with incredible power and faith, and I loved the scenes between him and Wilberforce (which, sadly, are the
only scenes he appears in). 

 Rufus Sewell and Youssou N'Dour were a dynamic duo as Thomas Clarkson and Olaudah Equiano, respectively.  In the movie, the two convinced Wilberforce to fight for the abolition of the slave trade.  I don't think that this was what actually happened in history, but I found it to be very moving anyway.  Neither got very much screen time, but they managed to pack an incredible amount of meaning and personality into the scenes they were in.

 The other "dynamic duo", composed of Ciaran Hinds as Lord Tarleton and Toby Jones as the Duke of Clarence, was not as pleasant.  Lord Tarleton was imposing and threatening, but the Duke of Clarence got on my nerves. (He has no compassion for them, either. ;D)  They were quite good as antagonists, and again, they did a great job.


Content: Despite the PG rating, it does have some disturbing images/scenes about slavery, and I would not advise this for younger kids.

In case you hadn't guessed already, this movie is one of my favorites ever.  It was fabulous, gorgeous and amazing (and it had fabulous, gorgeous and amazing costumes to boot!) in almost every way.  There were some historical inaccuracies, predictably, but the main spirit came across admirably and I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a lovely, inspiring movie.


Natalie said...

Oh, this is one of the movies I was planning on reviewing sometime! haha
I agree, isn't it an amazing movie? All the actors were perfect in their roles. I love the costumes too!
When I saw Ciaran Hinds I was in it I could hardly believe it! I just wasn't expecting to see Captain Wentworth!

Miss Jane Bennet said...

YES. To all of it. ;)

Miss Elliot said...

I love. this. movie. Love it.
Nice review! :-)
Sorry, I'm keeping my comments short because I've already made like ten comments on this blog. And in one night, too! :-)

Miss Jane Bennet said...

Miss Elliot,
It's SUCH a good and touching movie, even if it's not the most historically accurate--and anyway, Wilberforce is one of my greatest historical heroes.
Haha, I know the feeling--"Oh, I should really get to bed...OH WAIT MUST COMMENT." :D