Wilberforce Amazes; Film Forum Moves On
Amazing Grace rises above almost all recent films about Christian faith for its willingness to portray the complexities, hardships, and unanswered questions that characterize the road of faith. It is also features a cast that deliver impressive, memorable performances. And it manages to avoid being too "preachy." Wilberforce's story truly reflects the glory of Christ as we see him sacrificing so much for to redeem others.
It's a pleasant surprise in an otherwise uninspiring season at the movies. My full review is at Looking Closer.
Russ Breimeier (Christianity Today Movies) says, "Similar to Chariots of Fire and Shadowlands in tone, Amazing Grace balances faith and filmmaking in a historical drama that depicts an ordinary Christian doing extraordinary things because of his beliefs."
He praises many aspects, especially the script by Steven Knight. "The screenplay … succeeds in capturing the essence of Wilberforce and his accomplishments, never shying away from the man's faith but never making it the central component either—just as Eric Liddell's refusal to run on the Sabbath was vital but not paramount to Chariots of Fire.
Amazing Grace seems more honest because of such balance, and acclaimed director Michael Apted … succeeds in rendering the story with authenticity."
Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service) says, "Amazing Grace should find favor in schools, but this is no dry history lesson. Rather, it's a vital tribute to the man who, as his epitaph states, 'prepared the way for the abolition of slavery in every colony of the empire.'"
Adam R. Holz (Plugged In) says, "Many movies pretend importance. Few, however, make good on their lofty ambitions. In contrast, Amazing Grace isn't landing at the multiplex with a multimillion dollar ad campaign trumpeting its arrival. And yet, the messages it delivers are important. … Amazing Grace reminds us that God's calling on our lives is not neatly divided into sacred and secular categories."
Greg Wright (Past the Popcorn) says, "As a history lesson, Amazing Grace is beyond admirable." He also calls it "a powerful indictment" of slavery, and "an Oscar-bait complex powerhouse." He adds, "As an example of ensemble acting that might be more memorable than anything else we'll see this year, we couldn't ask for more." But he concludes, "[T]he whole doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts. There's something missing here, something passionate and vibrant that only comes through when Finney is onscreen, or in the stirring moments of the closing credits."
Christian Hamaker (Crosswalk) says, "With so much going for it, the film is easy to recommend, but it's a qualified recommendation. Why? Because although … Apted tells Wilberforce's story competently, his nicely lit scenes are heavy on dialogue and very light on camera movement. Such an approach is not inappropriate for a historical drama, but after so many standard shots of characters talking to each other, the film begins to feel heavy and somewhat inert."
He also finds trouble with the flashback structure, but concludes, "Amazing Grace is an amazing story, a reminder that believers are called to persevere through trials, and that we sometimes reap rewards in this life as well as the next."
Cliff Vaughn (Ethics Daily) says it "delivers everything you want: solid script, outstanding performances, clever wit, tight drama, inspiring story."