Watch a Witty, Gritty, Hardboiled Retelling of the Famous Aaron Burr-Alexander Hamilton Duel

Imag­ine Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden being on the receiv­ing end of a vocif­er­ous attack in the press by for­mer Sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury, Tim Gei­th­n­er. Now, pic­ture Biden demand­ing sat­is­fac­tion, and tak­ing the morn­ing off from his vice pres­i­den­tial duties to set­tle things man-to-man, and Gei­th­n­er wind­ing up in a coma. As unbe­liev­able as this episode may seem today, this kind of affair played out some 200 years ago on a much grander scale when Vice Pres­i­dent Aaron Burr fatal­ly shot Alexan­der Hamil­ton dur­ing a duel. The Burr-Hamil­ton con­fronta­tion remains an infa­mous black mark on Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. Burr, serv­ing as VP in Thomas Jefferson’s admin­is­tra­tion, is wide­ly seen as a vil­lain for mur­der­ing Hamil­ton. Hamil­ton, for his part, is beloved as one of the Found­ing Fathers and a vocal cham­pi­on of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion. For our non-Amer­i­can read­ers, this adu­la­tion trans­lates to his face now grac­ing the $10 bill.

But were things real­ly so sim­ple? Dana O’Keefe, the film­mak­er behind Aaron Burr, Part 2, answers with a resound­ing no. “His­to­ry is a con­test, not unlike a duel. I end­ed his life. But he ruined mine. I won the duel, but I lost my place in his­to­ry,” Burr declares in the open­ing mono­logue of O’Keefe’s 8‑minute short, and it is pre­cise­ly Burr’s place in his­to­ry that the film seeks to address. In O’Keefe’s mod­ern retelling, Burr emerges as an unfair­ly maligned fig­ure, whose brav­ery in bat­tle has been over­shad­owed by the incom­pe­tence of supe­ri­ors such as Gen­er­als George Wash­ing­ton and Richard Mont­gomery. It’s effec­tive. Mix­ing archival footage of orig­i­nal doc­u­ments with re-enact­ments and present day shots, O’Keefe cre­ates a grit­ty, some­times wit­ty, hard­boiled feel to Bur­r’s sto­ry, and view­ers begin to sym­pa­thize with the dis­par­aged fig­ure. To the sounds of tracks like Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode” and some cre­ative use of iPhones, O’Keefe dis­pels the idea that Burr shot Hamil­ton first. Rather, Burr is the hon­or­able par­ty, and Hamil­ton is the scoundrel. It’s well worth a watch.

via The Atlantic

Ilia Blin­d­er­man is a Mon­tre­al-based cul­ture and sci­ence writer. Fol­low him at @iliablinderman, or read more of his writ­ing at the Huff­in­g­ton Post.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Drunk His­to­ry: An Intox­i­cat­ed Look at the Famous Alexan­der Hamil­ton – Aaron Burr Duel

Alexan­der Hamil­ton: Hip-Hop Hero at the White House Poet­ry Evening

Free Online His­to­ry Cours­es

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