Some notable Brit actorsAlbert Finney, Michael Gambon and othersturn up in "Amazing Grace," the story of an anti-slavery crusader in 18th Century England, but their performances along with the film's overall message are so pointed that they threaten to put out an eye.
Better suited for the History Channel than the big screen, this Michael Apteddirected film missteps in sticking primarily to the biographical profile of the white abolitionist, William Wilberforce, while showing only ghosts of the abhorrent slavery he fought so fiercely (in Parliament, not on the battlefield) to end. It's as if Apted ("The World Is Not Enough," "Coal Miner's Daughter") set out to make the after-school special version of an abolitionist's tale, leaving the horrific details of the slave trade to the imagination and resulting in a watery account of one man's somewhat removed experience (or perhaps a removed account of one man's somewhat watery experience).
Ioan Gruffudd ("Fantastic Four") does duty as Wilberforce, while Finney appears as his minister, a reformed slave ship captain who penned the song "Amazing Grace." Gambon plays career politician Lord Fox, Rufus Sewell turns up as radical abolitionist leader Thomas Clarkson (whose experience traveling the world and gathering evidence of the injustices of slavery would have made a more compelling picture), Romola Garai is Wilberforce's wife Barbara Spooner, world music Grammy winner Youssou N'Dour plays former slave Oloudah Equiano and Toby Jones appears as the pro-slavery Duke of Clarence.
The talent on hand whips up a frenzy of good intentions, which, unfortunately, may be the film's undoingthat, in addition to the fact that for a movie whose topic is firmly rooted in black history, the cast is awfully white.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times