FILM REVIEW - Hamilton
Okay, I’ll admit that I’ve probably not been writing as many film reviews as I would’ve liked when I first started this little venture. Despite this, reviewing films is probably one of my favourite things to do. So what movie to review next? With a massive influx of films premiering on Netflix and other like-minded streaming services, I wanted to find something a bit different. When I heard that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s infamous musical ‘Hamilton’ was coming to the big screen, I saw an excellent opportunity, not only to watch something that the world has been talking about but also to judge the ability to convert a play into film form.
‘Hamilton’ is a musical that tells the story of Alexander Hamilton, a young man from the small Caribbean island of Nevis who dreams of changing the world. He travels to America where he intends to use his skill in writing to bring about a revolution against the British who are still in charge at the time. There he meets a group of friends who include Aaron Burr, a man whose destiny was intertwined with Hamilton’s for many years. He also meets the Schuyler sisters, one of whom, Eliza he ends up marrying. Hamilton finally gets the chance to excel in his campaign for revolution when he is picked by George Washington to be his aide-de-camp. Despite wanting to prove himself in battle, he finds resistance from Washington. However, when one of his old friends manages to garner support for the Americans from the French, Hamilton is put in charge of organising an attack that finally grants them victory against the British. The second half sees Hamilton now the Secretary of Treasury going up against Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State, when proposing his financial bills. To add to the pressure, Hamilton ends up having an affair with a married woman and is then extorted by the husband of the woman. His troubles end up culminating when Washington announces that he will resign and John Adams becomes president. With Washington out of the picture, Jefferson, James Madison and Hamilton’s old pal Aaron Burr team up to take him down. Rather than let them expose his wrongdoing, he reveals his affair thus wrecking his marriage. Forced to resign, Hamilton withdraws upstate for many many years. In that time his son, Phillip has grown up. When a family tragedy occurs, Alexander is forced to rethink his entire life. Can he salvage anything from his many years? And just who is friend and who is foe when the dust settles?
The actors in this film were not new to me. Lin-Manuel Miranda has become a fairly well-known face due to Hamilton, and given that he wrote the play as well as starring as the titular character, it was fairly clear that most of the success of this show was due to him. I think he gave a vibrant and well-energised performance on which the remaining cast could build their own. Performances from Anthony Ramos (who starred in ‘In The Heights’ - Review for that coming soon, haha), Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr. were also phenomenal. A side point, wow, these guys can really sing. Like damn. The fact that this was recorded as a play and therefore there were no reshoots, these guys performed solidly for 2 and a half hours straight with no mistakes blew my mind completely. Each character was uniquely written and even when Ramos and Diggs were playing different characters in the second half it didn’t phase me because it was so evident from the switch-up in their acting performance. I’m not sure there was any single character that I didn’t think was played well in hindsight. Bravo to the casting team!
Where to start on what I thought about this entire production. Firstly, I’d like to admit that whilst I love watching theatre shows, I’m not the biggest fan of musicals. Especially ones where there’s no normal dialogue, everything is a song. Cue traumatic flashbacks of watching Les Miserables in the cinema a few years back. That being said, I absolutely loved this show. I thought it was so slick and interesting. Although it was evident that the cast had been chosen for a reason, I liked the diversity of the cast, given that the real history probably wasn’t very diverse at all. As my mother put it, it made history interesting and American history is a complete mystery to me, aha! The multiple themes of ambition, rivalry, friendship and camaraderie made the production one that I could definitely see myself watching again!
Finally, we come on to cinematography. Now, this was a play on the stage that was recorded so that it could be in film version, rather than an actual movie production. That being said I thought the camera work was still good, but naturally I can’t comment on anything other than that. Now the music. This was a musical so this is the most important part of the review. I loved it. I thought the music was incredible and how the songs all meshed together with different harmonies were beautiful to listen to. It was evident that Miranda and his team had spent a lot of time composing the songs and the melodies which were not only sung pitch-perfect, but each character had their own distinct sound. That meant you could be listening to one song with different characters and each one had a set harmony so no one sounded like they were being drowned out. I’m not going to compare it to Les Miserables because I felt that this superseded it in so many respects. Overall, I was fairly blown away at how good this musical was. A part of me wishes that instead of watching it as a film, I’d been able to go and see it on stage. A job well done to the whole cast and Lin-Manuel Miranda on producing what I consider one of the greatest musicals of all time.