Do you want to see Benedict Cumberbatch join with a heroic group of people in order to fight a great evil, eventually, after much sacrifice, defeating it and saving countless lives in the process … all without the use of magic?
Then you need to see him play William Pitt in the movie Amazing Grace.
I am reviewing this movie now because I recently showed it to my kids while we studied this period of history. (By the way, one cool thing about the movie is how the fashions change during the twenty years that it covers. The characters start out wearing 18th-century ponytails, and end up with the short, tousled Napoleon style hair cuts by the early 1800s.)
Seeing Amazing Grace in the Theater
… Anyway, I was going to say that I saw this movie in the theater when it came out in 2006, and that watching it “live” with a bunch of other people was a really neat communal experience. We lived in Dallas at the time. Many of the other moviegoers were black, and since the movie was promoted through churches, the majority of the moviegoers in the theater that day were Christians. Near the end, when Wilberforce finally makes some legal headway against the slave trade, you could hear people calling out, “Amen! Thank you Jesus!”
William Wilberforce, a young up-and-coming politician, really wants to leave politics and embark on the contemplative life. He is convinced to stay in politics, so as to outlaw the slave trade, by his friend William Pitt, who has his eye on becoming Prime Minister, as well as by an assortment of abolitionists. Some of them, like former slave Olaudah Equiano, are singularly focused on abolition. Others, like eccentric Jacobite Thomas Clarkson, have in mind the total overthrow of society.
William struggles for fifteen years to get the British slave trade outlawed. He fails, his health breaks down, and he withdraws from public life, completely broken. The movie recaps this struggle and goes on to show what happened when he decided to try again.
Quotes from Amazing Grace
Here are some great moments from the movie.
Barbara Spooner, trying to make William Wilberforce realize what an impact his anti-slavery campaign had on her as a teenager: “My father was beside himself when I stopped taking sugar in my tea. I told my friends there was actual slave’s blood in every lump.”
Thomas Clarkson to William Wilberforce: “First France, next England. The streets of London will run with blood!”
William: “Thomas, you must never speak of revolution in my presence again.”
John Newton: “I wish I could remember their names. They all had names. Beautiful African names. We called them with grunts and gestures. We were apes. They were heroes.”
I definitely recommend this film to anyone who wants to learn more about this period in history. Before it came out, I didn’t even know who William Wilberforce was.