Synopsis by Mark Deming
One man's role in the long battle to outlaw slavery in the United Kingdom sets the stage for this historical drama from director Michael Apted. In 1784, 21-year-old William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) was elected to the British House of Commons, and soon established himself as a politician with a conscience. Several years later, his close friend William Pitt (Benedict Cumberbatch) became prime minister, and together they made a bold plan to introduce a bill banning slavery before the English legislature. Wilberforce was aided by anti-slavery activists Olaudah Equiano (Youssou N'Dour) and Thomas Clarkson (Rufus Sewell); however, pro-slavery hard-liners Lord Tarleton (Ciarán Hinds) and the Duke of Clarence (Toby Jones) spearheaded a hard-fought opposition to the legislation, and despite Wilberforce's best efforts, his bill went down in defeat. In 1797, Wilberforce left politics due to poor health and a battered spirit; staying at the country home of his friends Henry and Marianne Thornton (Nicholas Farrell and Sylvestra Le Touzel), he became acquainted with Barbara Spooner (Romola Garai), a beautiful woman with progressive views. Spooner became deeply infatuated with Wilberforce, and she encouraged him not to give up on his noble goals; with her help, Wilberforce launched a second campaign to persuade England's lawmakers to end the slave trade. Amazing Grace made its North American premiere as the closing-night gala attraction at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival.
abolition [of slavery], clergy, guilt, Parliament, perseverance, politician, sabotage, showdown, slave-trader