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Review: Hamilton

Written by Culture, Film

I originally wrote an article for the Courier about how Hamilton was set to be released in 2021, and it’s fair that times have indeed changed since then (that should probably be deleted, actually). We have lost our glorious In The Heights adaptation for now but Hamilton has finally come to our screen, and I was willing to wait for it for many, many years.

For context, my friends and I at the end of secondary school and into sixth form were obsessed with Hamilton. When it got announced it was coming to the West End, I booked it for the June following my first year of university as motivation to pass my A-Levels, so I wouldn’t have to cancel the performance due to it clashing with typical A-Level results time. Somehow, this was all the motivation I needed to pass my exams. I’ve seen it live with the original West End cast, and I planned to see it again in April but of course, COVID-19 happened. I’ve even written an assignment about Hamilton for one of my modules. So, fair to say I was a bit excited when the date for the film got pushed forward by an entire year, right as I was mourning my West End show that never was. But did the film live up to my expectations?

Even if you hate musicals, Hamilton is very different to the typical Broadway production

In short, yes, yes it did. The Hamilton recording didn’t disappoint me in the slightest. Sure, some F-bombs were bleeped out, but it is incredibly fun to scream them over the censoring. As a Hamilton fan, it was really satisfying (no pun intended) to finally see the production with the original Broadway cast, and I was impressed by how little their voices differ to the OBC album. Truly, talent at its finest.

Credit: IMDb

A standout performance for me was from Anthony Ramos, who somehow manages to play a charming, endearing child Philip Hamilton, whilst clearly being a man in his twenties. This is one of the performances which works way better on-screen than just on the album, and I adore him so much. Jonathan Groff as King George III is also one of those instances too, with both the West End and Broadway King George’s being one of my favourite parts, despite admittedly skipping his songs before I saw it live in 2018. Of course, Leslie Odom Jr. absolutely steals the stage whenever he’s on, becoming a beloved fan favourite despite his clear opponency to Alexander Hamilton throughout the show- “The Room Where It Happens” is a top three song, for sure.

Credit: IMDb

Oh, and Jonathan Groff’s spit deserves a mention as a standout too because wow, that really stepped off the stage and into the audience. I already went in knowing I adored Christopher Jackson’s buttery voice, and “Satisfied” is my favourite song so I am absolutely biased towards my opinions of Renée Goldsberry, but they did not disappoint at all, despite my extremely high expectations. In the last ten minutes of Hamilton, Philipa Soo absolutely steals the stage and is one of the best actresses I have ever seen and never fails to make me cry. So yeah, I loved them.

However, this isn’t to say that I don’t have criticisms of Hamilton. How dare I have opinions against one of my favourite musicals, but here I am. Firstly (this isn’t to do with the actors), the camera angles of the film sometimes annoyed me quite a lot. I feel that they were so interested in getting close-ups of the fan favourite’s faces that we missed a lot of the set and dancers in the background, which to me are of equal importance. Some of the things I remember the most about the West End performance was the amazing choreography and the use of lighting. Whilst we still see a lot of it, some scenes could have been filmed a lot better. For instance, in “Satisfied” they use the revolving stage and all of the dancers start doing the routine in reverse and it’s such a ‘wow’ moment, and it felt completely lost in the film for me, which is a real shame.

As for a mild hot take, I don’t think Lin Manuel Miranda is the best Hamilton actor out there.

Due to the camera constantly panning over to people, a lot of the effect from the revolving stage in general got completely lost because the stage was constantly moving in one way or another. Once again, if the camera just pulled back for a moment and stayed stationary, this wouldn’t have been such an issue for me. As for a mild hot take, I don’t think Lin Manuel Miranda is the best Hamilton actor out there. He’s a wonderful performer and writer, but the best of Miranda’s Hamilton shines through the second act, and for a lot of the first act I feel he gets overshadowed by his other cast members. In my opinion, I found the West End actor Ash Hunter more compelling.

Credit: IMDb

If you’re someone who’s seen a production of it before, it’s fun to see how parts are played slightly differently between different actors. Yes, it’s the same material, but each actor will have their own take on how to approach a character, so it’s still a refreshing performance to watch. Also, this is a very different experience than watching it live. If you’re someone who has only listened to the cast recording, I urge you to watch the film because many of the songs translate way better on screen. For instance, “What Did I Miss?” used to be a throwaway song for me, but it is now one of my favourites out of the entire production. Hell, even if you hate musicals, Hamilton is very different to the typical Broadway production and is generally universally liked, as seen by my friend who hates musicals but now is going through a Hamilton phase five years after everyone else.

If you’ve heard the hype, it’s there for a good reason.

I think Hamilton has stayed consistently popular because of its fun take on American history (a rap formation of the Founding Fathers is quite odd, even now) and its central theme of legacy which resonates with many people. Don’t go in thinking it’s historically accurate and nitpick it, because it’s a re-telling, not a re-enactment, so don’t be one of those people.

If you’ve heard the hype, it’s there for a good reason. If anything, the film made me even more excited for when I can finally see it live again. Don’t throw away your shot, and watch it now on Disney+.

Featured Image: IMDb

Last modified: 21st July 2020

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