Copperhead Blu-ray Review

Director Ronald Maxwell has made a career of bringing stories from the Civil War to the big screen. At almost four-hours long, GETTYSBURG was a brilliant look into the that great battle. The three and a half hour GODS AND GENERALS was also well done. After those two epics, Maxwell only gave himself two hours to tell a story that takes place off of the battlefield. That story is COPPERHEAD.

Billy Campbell in Copperhead

In upper New York state, Abner Beech lives with his wife (Genevieve Steele), his son, Jeff, (Casey Brown) and orphaned boy, Jimmy (Josh Cruddas), who Abner has taken in to his home. Another family residing in the town are the Hagadorns: father Jee (Angus MacFadyen) and children Ni (Augustus Prew) and Esther (Lucy Boynton). It is 1862 and news of the war between the states is greeted differently in each household. Abner is against the war, maintaining that President Lincoln and his cabinet have disregarded the Constitution for their own aims. Jee is supportive of the president and his desire to free slaves. To not support Abraham Lincoln and his works will earn you a nickname: Copperhead.

Billy Campbell in Copperhead

A well produced mash up of ROMEO AND JULIET and the Gary Cooper film FRIENDLY PERSUASION, COPPERHEAD is a beautifully photographed and well acted tale about an aspect of the Civil War that I’m sure not many people know about: not everyone in the North was against slavery. Things become complicated with Jeff Beech takes a liking to Esther Hagadorn. Wanting to impress Esther’s father, Jeff stops going by his middle name – since the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, shares it – and asks to be addressed by his first name, Thomas. Jeff/Thomas enlists in the army, with some local boys, and soon he is reported missing. Other boys return from battle but no one has any information about him. Abner continues to upset the townsfolk with his words and actions, going as far as to storm out of Sunday services in a disagreement with the preacher. Soon nobody will do business with him. But things come to a head on election day when their pro-Democrat votes are challenged. The family feud continues but, like in ROMEO AND JULIET, it’s always the children that suffer.

Billy Campbell in Copperhead

Like his two previous Civil War-themed films, director Maxwell has surrounded himself with first class talent both on screen and behind the camera. Campbell delivers one of his best performances here and Angus MacFadyen is amazing. With just an inflection in his voice, or a gleam in his eye, he delivers the message his character means to convey. Behind the scenes, the film is beautifully photographed by longtime Maxwell cinematographer Kees Van Oostrum, who manages to capture the great beauty of the countryside but also shows the bleakness of war. Kudos also to music composer Lauren Eyquem for perfectly setting the mood throughout the film. Fans of GETTYSBURG and GOD’S AND GENERALS, or just of Maxwell in general, will find this film a perfect companion to complete the Civil War Trilogy.


Video: Presented in a 2:35.1 aspect ratio, the film beautifully captures the countryside of upstate New York.

Audio: Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the film is dialogue driven, with said dialogue presented sharp and clear. Even when characters are talking over each other the audio is clean.

There are no extras included on this disc.


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