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Amazing Grace

The stirring, long-awaited concert documentary is finally in theaters.

Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Metacritic score: 95

Kept under a bushel for more than four decades while it was held up by both technical issues and lawsuits, it seemed like Amazing Grace — which Sydney Pollack filmed in 1972, as Aretha Franklin recorded the live album of the same name that would become one of her most acclaimed — would never see the light of day. But in 2018, it was finally finished, just months after the singer’s show-stopping funeral.

The result is a concert documentary, one of the most electrifying ever made, that captures Franklin at her peak, backed by the Southern California Community Choir over two nights at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. And for its 87-minute runtime, those of us in the audience aren’t an audience at all. We’re bearing witness to one of the greatest performances of all time. We get to be part of a ritual of remembrance, a cry for mercy, and a long plea for justice. If we’re just sitting there watching other people make music — instead of participating in it ourselves as engaged audience members — we’re doing it wrong.

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