Before Lin-Manuel Miranda introduced the world to the "forgotten founding father" with his smash hit play "Hamilton," most people only knew who Alexander Hamilton was when they looked at their $10 bills. Sure, we learned about him in our history classes, but among the myriad of brave rebels that helped to shape and form our country, he was given the short shrift.
That all changed with a little hip-hop and some sick beats. Now, there's probably no other revolutionary figure with greater name recognition save for maybe George Washington. That's the power of music and Broadway. And yes, before you ask, I'm listening to the soundtrack of the musical as I write this review ("Rise Up!").
And yet, as slick as the musical is, it really does gloss over many of the important details of Hamilton's life in favor of a more entertaining product. No one can argue the wisdom of this decision, but there does remain a rather large information hole about Hamilton. Enter Hamilton: Building America.
There are other Hamilton documentaries out there, but few are as entertaining and thorough as Hamilton: Building America. With reenactment scenes shot in many locations where history actually happened, it really gives the viewer a real sense of the world that Hamilton lived in.
Not only does the documentary showcase recognizable TV talent like Tom Brokaw, but they also spend a lot of time talking to Ron Chernow, whose biography was the basis for Lin-Manuel Miranda's play. The result is a nice mix of expert information and entertainment that makes the film feel less like a documentary and more a companion piece to the musical.
And yet, the main thrust of the documentary is to focus on Hamilton's accomplishments. They do a great job of showing how influential he was and how his impact is still felt to this day. In the musical, many of Hamilton's accomplishments are tacked on in an epilogue that is easy to miss amid all of the action of the play's final moments.
The bottom line is that Hamilton: Building America is the new standard of Hamilton documentaries. The release is perfectly timed and with a suggested retail price of only $14.98, it is the perfect stocking stuffer for all of the Hamilton fans on your Christmas list.
Hamilton: Building America is now available on DVD.