DATELINE: Amazing Grace: The True Story
Director Michael Apted put together a film called Amazing Grace in 2008 in which Sherlock Holmes would meet Horatio Hornblower. Well, not exactly, but Benedict Cumberbatch costarred with Ioan Gruffudd in the true story of young Wilberforce and young Pitt, British abolitionists.
The film was never embraced by the African American audience because it is plainly Masterpiece Theatre level Brit drama. It depicts the 20 year struggle of these English Members of Parliament to ban the slave trade in the British Empire around 1800.
Gloriously cast with actors with great faces, you can add Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, Michael Gambon, Albert Finney, and Rufus Sewell, into the mix. You have a masterpiece of English actors.
Though not exactly action packed, it creates moments of powerful emotion as these intellectuals, Wilberforce and Pitt, boyhood chums, take on the powerful economic force that enslaved people.
It is well produced, has the flair of the era and aristocratic settings to tell the tale.
When the story of the timeless spiritual, “Amazing Grace,” is a secondary subplot, you have intriguing history alive. Albert Finney plays Gruffuld’s boyhood pastor, a former slave ship captain who wrote the song. Indeed, in one compelling scene, Cumberbatch presents Gruffud’s impressive rendition of the tune.
The film fell through the cracks initially because it did not go through television as its main channel. If one of the cable stations had picked it up, it would have become a biopic miniseries about ten hours long.
Instead, we have a throwback to the great historical movies that came out of England in the 1960s.