AMAZING GRACE (Michael Apted). 111 minutes. Opens Friday (March 23). For venues and times, see Movies, page 89. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
If you noticed that the Brits kept giving better speeches during awards season than their American counterparts and chalked it up to British stage training, you were probably right. The other benefit of that training is that it makes possible movies like Amazing Grace, a historical drama in which people give big speeches and burst into song in a scenario that seems only mildly ridiculous instead of flat-out campy.
Hottie Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd plays William Wilberforce, the British MP who tried for 20 years to abolish the British slave trade. Working alongside his friend Pitt the Younger (the excellently named Benedict Cumberbatch), England's youngest PM, Wilberforce gradually convinces his fellow parliamentarians of the rightness of his views.
Never mind that Albert Finney, as John Newton, former slave trader and author of the hymn Amazing Grace, needs dip to go with the scenery he's chewing. Never mind that the name Pitt the Younger arouses Blackadder-related giggles.
Although it's a bit long and earnest, the film's a throwback to a time when great oratory could still move people. One need only look at the current state of politics to realize that time is probably gone for good.