The title of this movie threw me. When I first heard about this movie, I figured it would be about John Newton who wrote the famous hymn. Instead, it tells the story of William Wilberforce, the man who led the fight to end slavery in England. The hymn of the title is William's favorite hymn and shows up a few times in the soundtrack. Still, I don't completely get why the movie got this title. Either way, that's my only complaint.
William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) was a member of Parliament during the late 1700's. He hadn't been in politics too long when God got a hold of him. While he was good at politics, he felt pulled to devote his life to God. But through the encourage of his friends, especially Prime Minister to be William Pitt (Benedict Cumberbatch) and preacher John Newton (Albert Finney), he found another calling for his life - leading the fight to end slavery in the British Empire.
This movie begins in 1797, and in a series of flashbacks, tells the story of William beginning his struggle to end slavery. In 1797, his poor health and constant defeats lead him to almost give up his calling. Will he stop or keep fighting?
William Wilberforce was a deeply committed Christian, and that influenced much of his life. But don't let that fact scare you away from this wonderful film. Christianity is an ever present part of the story, but the movie never preaches. And, unlike many Christian movies, this one is well written, acted, and produced.
I often have a hard time getting into period movies, and this one was no exception. But once I figure out who everyone was, I got lost in the story. The movie brings in the larger historical context, making it that much richer. And the costumes and sets are wonderful. Everyone in the cast does a great job. Obviously, the movie is mostly series, but a few comic moments help lighten the mood. They really took me by surprise and made me laugh out loud.
Mainly through words, this movie depicts the harsh realities that were the slave trade. Frankly, this made the horror all the more real to me. There are two uses of the "n" word. They are jarring. While historically accurate, I think their use was intended to jar us.
As I watched the story unfold, I couldn't help but notice how little has changed in politics in the last 200 years. Frankly, this gave me hope that some of the issues of today will eventually be resolved despite how it looks from year to year.
This is an inspiring movie. We need more men like William Wilberforce today who will fight, not because it is politically expedient, but because it is right.