It’s no secret that I love history, especially United States history. In comparison to other countries around the world, the US is very young, but that doesn’t diminish the story that it has to tell, and it’s one of overcoming unfathomable obstacles. The American Civil War is undoubtedly the biggest in American history, one that reshaped the country and the direction it was going.
When I learned the History Channel was doing a three-part documentary series on Ulysses S.Grant, I naturally became excited. People generally know him as the face on the American fifty dollar bill, and admittedly I didn’t know much about him either. I knew Grant was the Union General during the Civil War, and his victory would ultimately make him the United States’ 18th president. But like so many other famous names in history, his story got lost along the way. Sometimes it’s easy to think of the people of the past as fictional and forget that they were here. The History Channel made us remember who General Grant was.
Executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, who helped produce The Men Who Built America: Frontiersmen, and directed by Malcolm Venville (44 Inch Chest, Henry’s Crime), Grant is a three-part mini-series event presented by the History Channel that surveys the life story of Ulysses S. Grant, using his perspective and experiences to remind us of a tumultuous time in history: The Civil War and Reconstruction.
Grant is a true underdog story of a man who came from nothing, and many believed he would be nothing. This documentary did an excellent job of depicting a story lost in history. What I appreciated most as a viewer was their way of explaining to us who he was as a human being and what the driving force of his character was without diminishing his success along the way.
There were many things I felt this documentary did right. The information was presented in an educational and thought-provoking matter by multiple historians and a former United States Military Commander. When retelling history, the accuracy of the information is important, and along with making sure that opinions are left out. Grant accomplished both of these things by sticking to the facts.
The second thing I fully enjoyed was the use of archival photos throughout the episodes. It is one thing to have information be told to you but, being able to see it makes it real. Most, if not all the photos, I had never seen before. Seeing images of unnamed soldiers on both sides of the battlefield added a powerful impact that gave me chills.
While Grant was an insightful and educational program, it was just as entertaining. I came for the education but stayed for the reenactments. Justin Salinger (Enduring Love, Everest) portrayed General Grant in this documentary series. Salinger’s performance as Ulysses S. Grant was compelling and truthful, bringing to life one of the United States’ most famous Generals. Playing someone so well-known isn’t an easy concept for anyone, but Salinger did so skillfully. The reenactments were cinematically beautiful. The sights, the sounds, and the skilled way the scenes were filmed made me at times forget that I was watching a made-for-television documentary and not a feature film.
Premiering on Memorial Day and drawing in over 3 million total viewers, Grant offers a comprehensive look at the life of the 18th president of the United States. Both insightful and entertaining, Grant is the perfect documentary for anyone who loves history and documentaries. You may even learn something new.
I hope you enjoyed this review and let us know what you thought about the History Channel’s newest documentary in the comments below!