1. The movie.
The movie itself is about 130 minutes long.
There isn’t much music – Haydn’s Opus No. 64, movements 2, 4, and 5 – but it’s used with good effect. The story and the interaction between the characters carry the movie along. There are several flashbacks, but not so many as to be confusing.

There were explicit statements about the horrors that people who were trafficked as slaves endured, but they were effective and weren’t as gruesome as were some scenes in The Passion of the Christ.

2. The title.
Amazing Grace is the title of the song written by John Newton, who used to be a slave trader himself. So Amazing Grace, as Newton’s autobiography, also becomes the anthem of the anti-slavery movement as it expresses the experience of an ex-slave trader and their hope that others involved in the trading of human lives will see the evil of it and end their involvement.

3. The story.
Amazing Grace tells the story of William Wilberforce, who was instrumental in destroying the slave trade through the British Empire in 1803, and thirty years later setting free those who were already slaves. The basic plot focusses on the political battle Wilberforce and his supporters fought to stop the slave trade.

The film also looks at his friendships, mostly as they affect his fight against slavery. Because it’s an intensely serious topic, there are several lighter moments, including scenes involving Wilberforce’s butler Richard. However, even these scenes are used to underscore how all kinds of people were unfairly treated – not just those with black skin – whether they were soldiers returning from war, disabled and having to beg, or commoners looked down on by nobility (as Wilberforce was), or even the treatment of animals.

4. The actors.
It stars a few well-known actors, but I hadn’t heard of most of them. Ioan Gruffudd’s (The Fantastic Four, Hornblower) performance as William Wilberforce was solid: he was at the centre of the story and there was rarely a scene he wasn’t in. However, for me the standout character was John Newton, played by Albert Finney. There is one particular scene where he has been dictating what he remembers about the slave trade; he begins to cry, and about himself and his fellows, says ‘We were the apes; they were the humans’.

5. Christian themes.
There are some Christian references peppered through the movie; only a few, but they are explicit. When Wilberforce is debating about what career to follow, his butler asks, ‘Have you found God, sir?’ Wilberforce answers, ‘I think rather that He found me.’ On another occasion, John Newton says, I only remember two things: I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great saviour.’

6. Conclusion.
a. By the end of the 18th century, more than 11 million people had been sold as slaves.
b. At the start of the 21st century, more people than the whole population of Australia (27 million) are enslaved.
c. Every year, the number of people enslaved (2.4 million) is more than the population of Western Australia.
d. World Vision and the Salvation Army have joined together to form the organisation http://www.StoptheTraffik.org.au
e. get group bookings for Amazing Grace; get fund-raising events happening to support Stop the Traffik.

The movie opens July 26.

copyright 2007 Troy Grisgonelle.