Review / ‘Freedom’ (M)  ***

r0_0_3872_2592_w1200_h678_fmaxTIMOTHY Chey’s screenplay draws on verifiable historical characters for Australian Peter Cousens’ directing debut.

In 1748, slave-ship master John Newton (Bernhard Forcher), after witnessing the abominable conditions for its human cargo, wrote the song “Amazing Grace”.

Newton gave the bible his fiancée had given him to a slave child whose great-grandson Samuel Woodard (Cuba Gooding, also one of the film’s executive producers along with Cousens and Chey) carried it in 1856 during a hazardous journey along the underground railway that carried all too few slaves to freedom in Canada.

Much of this is verifiable fact. Much of the rest may be fiction blessed with an implied verity. The good guys are, naturally, mostly slaves. One of the exceptions is Thomas Garrett (Michael Goodwin) the Quaker who worked as a stationmaster on the railway for more than four decades.

The film makes no concessions in depicting the brutality of the bad guys. A mounted team led by noted tracker Plimpton (William Sadler) is never far behind Woodard’s family and Garrett.

The film offers spirituals sung with more polish than might have been the case when they were new. Some dramatic moments may have been embellished; others are technical in creating its environment. A careful eye might discern minor anachronisms. But none of these diminishes the film’s appeal to our goodwill.

At Palace Electric

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