A Slow But Decent Drama --
Copperhead is not a term of endearment, it's used, in actual fact, as a derogatory term as Copperheads were considered traitors by the vast majority of Northerners who backed the Union, and were vocally opposed to Civil War. They also wanted to settle with the Confederacy for the sake of peace. Copperhead is an adaptation of Harold Frederic’s 1893 novel, The Copperhead, but has justice been done to this Civil War story? Director Ron Maxwell, whose previous Civil War dramas include Gettysburg (1993) and Gods and Generals (2003), has created a beautifully filmed period piece set in 1862, and is inspired by events in upstate New York, but played out by fictional characters.
Abner Beech (Billy Campbell) isn't a pacifist, but is anti-war as he wants the Civil War to end as quickly as possible, no matter who wins, as all he cares about is his family's well being . Most of his pro-war, Republican neighbors, including the local preacher, have a completely different view of slavery and war. Abner explains his views in a brief conversation with Avery (Peter Fonda), telling him "I’m no slaver, I've never seen a slave." People start to boycott his business by accusing him of watering down his milk. Abner's son Jeff (Casey Brown) distances himself from the family as he’s fallen in love with Esther Hagadom (Lucy Boynton), the daughter of a Union supporter Jee (Angus Macfadyen), but to win favor with Esther and Jee, he joins the Union army but soon goes missing in action.
This isn't strictly a movie about war, only setting itself on the periphery, but we can see the direct results of war on the small community. The costumes were good for this period as was pretty much everything in this period drama, but it was filmed beautifully with some truly magnificent scenes. You could almost smell the fields and feel the sun on your head. As for the story itself, it was slow and cumbersome at times but it was far from boring. It was just paced too slow for my taste in these dramas. The acting was solid by all the main cast members, with Fonda having little screen time, which was a pity as he is well suited to films of this nature. At two hours it felt a bit long, even though today's audiences have proven that even three hour movies are acceptable now, but not for a slow period drama. I'm glad to have watched Copperhead but I couldn't bring myself to sit through it again. Not in this decade anyway.
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