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Hamilton – Movie Review

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Hamilton – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

Hamilton was an enormous success on Broadway, with its mix of hip-hop and American history. It is also incredibly difficult to buy tickets, as it’s become the most in-demand stage musical in a long time. The decision to released a filmed version of the show is a great way to make it more accessible to audiences who don’t have access to the Richard Rodgers Theatre or a touring company. Even as someone who has only heard the cast recording, Hamilton does feel like it somewhat misses the impact of seeing the show live. Nonetheless, the clever wordsmith of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s songs and the expert choreography comes through and it presents an entertaining interpretation of the United States Founding Fathers.

Director Thomas Kail allows for multiple different camera angles when filming Hamilton, thus leading to seeing the actors close-up and getting to see all of their emotions. The cast had been performing their characters for so long and they feel comfortable in the roles. Leslie Odom, Jr.’s Aaron Burr is the most dynamic personality and that allows some of the best parts of the show to come from his contiuning jealousy of Alexander Hamilton. Daveed Diggs, in dual roles as Thomas Jefferson and French aristocrat Marquis de Lafayette, brings an incredible amount of energy and successfully steals the spotlight from the rest of the cast. Meanwhile, Phillipa Soo captures the difficult feelings within Hamilton’s wife Eliza and Jonathan Groff gets the biggest laughs as King George III.

One of the biggest surprises of Hamilton actually comes from how funny it is. Kail and Miranda play up the anachronisms by injecting modern conversation into the historical setting and they work. Miranda’s songs became renowned for their use of rap and rhythm, leading to toe-tappers like “Non-Stop” and “The Room Where It Happens.” His way with lyrics is also impressive, as he strings words together that convey exactly the emotions these historical figures are feeling. Andy Blankerbuehler’s choreography is inventive, especially how he takes advantage of the talented background dancers. Kail makes sure we’re able to focus on both the main players and the rest of the ensemble.

The biggest flaw of Hamilton is that Alexander Hamilton isn’t all that interesting of a personality. Miranda gives a solid performance, but he’s outshone by everyone else around him and that leads to some parts dragging. Hamilton is at his most entertaining when sparring with fellow lawmakers, like a rap battle with Jefferson. As a result, Act II is also stronger than Act I. The political infighting and the first few American presidential administrations allow for some intriguing drama between the participants. It’s also hard not to make current parallels to the ways in which politicians can change alliances and viewpoints when it most suits them.

One imagines Hamilton is a much greater experience when seeing it on stage. However, Thomas Kail is able to successfully give an idea of what it might be like. Having it made accessible to everyone is so welcoming as it gives other people a chance to experience the show, who otherwise can’t afford expensive theatre tickets. This is a strategy other stage musicals should try and hopefully, the success of Hamilton on Disney+ will lead to production companies opening up the Lincoln Center archives and making these professionally filmed recordings widely available to the public.

Stefan Ellison