Dis­ney+ ‘Hamilton’ movie no less rev­o­lu­tion­ary than stage mu­si­cal jug­ger­naut

A beau­ti­fully filmed per­for­mance of Lin-Manuel Mi­randa’s rous­ing mu­si­cal mas­ter­piece comes to Dis­ney+.

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD ROEPER,

“So much of what Hamilton is about is how his­tory re­mem­bers and how that changes over time.” — LinManuel Mi­randa in the in­tro­duc­tion to the filmed ver­sion of “Hamilton.”

The bril­liance trans­lates beau­ti­fully.

It would be im­pos­si­ble for “Hamilton” the movie to repli­cate the ex­pe­ri­ence of see­ing one of the great­est of all mu­si­cals in a live the­atri­cal set­ting, but the filmed ver­sion of the Broad­way sen­sa­tion makes for im­mer­sive, ex­hil­a­rat­ing, mag­nif­i­cent cin­ema, al­most sure to thrill first-time view­ers as well as diehard fa­nat­ics who have seen the stage pro­duc­tion once or twice or a dozen times.

A lit­tle back­stage info be­fore we dive into the ma­te­rial it­self. Per the New York Times, “Hamilton” the film was shot over a three-day pe­riod in June 2016, just be­fore cre­ator and star Lin-Manuel Mi­randa and other key per­form­ers were to de­part the cast. Thomas Kail, who di­rected the stage pro­duc­tion as well as this movie, placed some 100 mi­cro­phones and in­stalled nine cam­eras in the Richard Rodgers Theater, seven of which were hid­den by drapes.

The movie we see comes across as a seam­less, re­al­time cap­ture of a sin­gle show, but it ac­tu­ally en­cap­su­lates two sep­a­rate per­for­mances, as well as some se­quences that were shot sans au­di­ence, with cam­eras on­stage to cap­ture close-ups and over­head shots. The tech­ni­cal wiz­ardry is sen­sa­tional, as is the lush and vi­brant sound, the light­ing and pro­duc­tion de­sign. A great-look­ing Broad­way play has be­come a great-look­ing movie.

“Hamilton” was orig­i­nally sched­uled for an Oct. 15, 2021, the­atri­cal re­lease, but last month it was an­nounced it would be streamed on Dis­ney+ start­ing on July 3. (The tim­ing is even more bit­ter­sweet but apt, given it was an­nounced on Mon­day the Broad­way shut­down will ex­tend through the end of this year.)

Af­ter brief, Zoom-like com­ments from Mi­randa and Kail, we’re taken in­side the Richard Rodgers Theater, and soon Les­lie Odom Jr.’s Aaron Burr is singing:

How does a bas­tard, or­phan, son of a whore and a Scots­man, dropped in the mid­dle of a for­got­ten Spot in the Caribbean by Prov­i­dence, im­pov­er­ished, in squalor

Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?

And off we go on a rous­ing his­tor­i­cal ad­ven­ture about the life and times of one Alexan­der Hamilton (Mi­randa), a great mind and fierce war­rior for free­dom and so­cial jus­tice who is al­ways as­sumes he’s the

“smartest in the room,” and is prob­a­bly right, though as Burr even­tu­ally cau­tions, that hubris “may be your doom.”

Not that any­thing will stop the young and greatly am­bi­tious Hamilton, who will not throw away his shot and sings:

A colony that runs in­de­pen­dently Mean­while, Bri­tain keeps s------ on us end­lessly Es­sen­tially, they tax us re­lent­lessly

Then King Ge­orge turns around, runs a spend­ing spree He ain’t never gonna set his de­scen­dants free

So there will be a revolution in this cen­tury…

Even with a run­ning time of 2 hours, 41 min­utes (in­clud­ing the in­tros, a one-minute In­ter­mis­sion, and the clos­ing cred­its fea­tur­ing “My Shot [Rise Up Remix]” by the Roots fea­tur­ing Busta Rhymes, Joell Or­tiz & Nate Ruess), “Hamilton” is a metic­u­lously stream­lined ve­hi­cle, never stalling or tak­ing un­nec­es­sary de­tours. With direc­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy De­clan Quinn pro­vid­ing an­gles that make us feel as if we’re in the bal­cony, then slightly off to the side, then be­hind the per­form­ers, oc­ca­sion­ally even over­head, we can see ev­ery sweat bead on the ac­tors’ faces as they per­form phys­i­cally de­mand­ing song-and-dance num­bers while wear­ing vi­brant but surely heavy pe­riod-piece cos­tumes.

One of the coolest fea­tures of the pro­duc­tion is a spin­ning cir­cle of wood in the cen­ter of the stage, with a sep­a­rate cir­cle around that cir­cle. The tim­ing of the ac­tors (most of whom had per­formed their roles hun­dreds of times by the time the cam­eras were brought in) is per­fect as they ma­neu­ver in and out of the ro­tat­ing cir­cles (which are used spar­ingly so as not to overdo the tech­nique) and even move set fur­ni­ture around as they segue from one num­ber to the next.

Lin-Manuel Mi­randa, whose amaz­ing mind is re­spon­si­ble for this time­less clas­sic, is tran­scen­dent as the ti­tle char­ac­ter — but his per­for­mance is no less im­pres­sive than a half-dozen oth­ers, in­clud­ing Les­lie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr; Daveed Diggs in a dual role as the heroic French free­dom fighter Lafayette and the preen­ing Thomas Jefferson, por­trayed as a po­lit­i­cal op­por­tunist and nar­cis­sis­tic dandy who schemes against Hamilton; Phillipa Soo as Hamilton’s loyal and long-suf­fer­ing wife, El­iza; Re­nee Elise Golds­berry as El­iza’s sis­ter, An­gel­ica, who sets aside her own love for Alexan­der so her sis­ter can be happy, and as comic re­lief, Jonathan Groff as King Ge­orge III, who scoffs at those rev­o­lu­tion­ary Amer­i­cans as well as his own troops from across the pond.

It feels as if ev­ery other num­ber in “Hamilton” is a show-stop­per, from the fa­mous “My Shot” to “The Story of Tonight” to “Help­less” (a show­case for the an­gelic and pow­er­ful fe­male voices in the cast) to “Ten Duel Com­mand­ments” to the heart­break­ing and glo­ri­ous fi­nale, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” Touch­ing on ev­ery­thing from blind am­bi­tion to sac­ri­fic­ing one­self for a greater cause to po­lit­i­cal scan­dals to the lessons of his­tory, “Hamilton” is a rev­o­lu­tion­ary mas­ter­work about a great revolution.

The orig­i­nal Broad­way stars of “Hamilton” in­clud­ing Lin-Manuel Mi­randa (in the ti­tle role) and Philippa Soo (as Hamilton’s wife El­iza) were filmed in 2016 for this movie


Les­lie Odom Jr. is a stand­out as Hamilton’s even­tual ri­val Aaron Burr.


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