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Amazing Grace review

This solid customer inverts the balance last seen on the stodgy Amistad, where the most impressive strands were the slave trade scenes. Here, the slave experience is evoked at a remove (nightmare flickers, Youssou N’Dour’s haunted face) and immediacy lies in the campaign for abolition. Convincing audiences that slavery is a bad thing isn’t hard, but helmer Michael Apted lubricates the potentially dry material with the aid of spry storytelling and a stellar Brit-cast. Ciarán Hinds makes dastardly as Lord Tarlton, while Albert Finney rivets as sorrowful ex-slaver (and title-hymn writer) John Newton. The laurels, though, go to Ioan Gruffudd’s turn as abolitionist William Wilberforce. Juggling zeal with humility, he also shares a rapport with Benedict Cumberbatch’s PM William Pitt the Younger. The tone’s a bit heavy, but only the syrup-scored climax conjures the dull worthiness of Spielberg’s epic.

 

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