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Amazing Grace

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These days, it's not particularly easy to market a film about 18th-century British abolitionists, but director Michael Apted (the 7-Up series) gives it a go. His prettily made, if predictable, drama will surely satisfy the Masterpiece Theatre crowd, and will likely provide a surprisingly uplifting bit of entertainment to those who wander in unaware. Grace telescopes a couple of decades of global history, sketching out House of Commons member William Wilberforce's greatest achievement: legislation that abolished the British slave trade (though not yet slavery in British colonies). Knowledge of history and British Parliamentary procedures is helpful, but the gist of Grace, with its broadly sketched morality, is easily absorbed. Ioan Gruffudd portrays Wilberforce with a dash of shaggy quirkiness; Romola Garai is his spirited companion; and Rufus Sewell, Toby Jones, Albert Finney and Michael Gambon all contribute the occasional sublime bit of scenery-munching that keeps this do-gooder buoyant. Starts Fri., Feb. 23. (AH)

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