Inspired by actual events, Copperhead takes place in upstate New York, circa 1862. Dairy farmer Abner Beech (Billy Campbell) despises slavery, but just as passionately opposes the war that President Lincoln is waging hundreds of miles away in the name of "union." Abner is what's known as a "Copperhead"; neither Yankee nor Rebel. Soon a local anti-slavery zealot named Hagadorn (Angus Macfadyen) stirs up the town against him, first with pamphlets and rumors that prompt shopkeepers to boycott Abner's dairy products, and next by coaxing the community to shun his family. Worse, Abner's son falls in love with Hagadorn's daughter, marching off to war to please her only to go missing in action. Hagadorn's wild-eyed rhetoric ignites a torch-bearing mob to descend upon Abner's farm, placing all that both men love in mortal danger.
If you're a Civil War aficionado, then you may want to pay attention, or not, because director Ronald F. Maxwell's latest Civil War project, 'Copperhead', misses the mark more than a few times. Maxwell is best known for making the other Civil War films 'Gettysburg' and 'Gods and Generals'. Those two films run a little over nine hours long put together. While they might be comprehensive, they're a bit exhausting.
Fortunately for us, 'Coppherhead' is only two hours in length, but it feels double that. Maxwell has stated that he wants to finish his Civil War Trilogy, with 'Gods and Generals' and 'Gettysburg' being the first two, but he has stated that 'Copperhead' is not part of that trilogy and is more of a side-story that takes place during this time period. And oddly enough, the film wasn't even made in America. It was in fact made in Canada.
The year is 1862 in upstate New York as we follow a dairy farmer named Abner Beech (Billy Campbell), who is not a fan of slavery, but is also opposed to what the North is doing in prompting war. These people who didn't take a side with either the South or North were known as pacifists or Copperheads. These Copperheads were not liked by many, and Abner and his family were no different. Meanwhile, a man named Hagadorn (Angus Macfadyen), begins to turn the town against Abner by prompting people and stores not to sell his dairy products, followed by telling everyone in town that he and his family are the enemy.
Abner's son Thomas Jefferson Beech, falls for Hagadorn's daughter Esther, which makes for a type of 'Romeo and Juliet' relationship. But Thomas is sent off to war and goes missing in action. After time, Hagadorn's hate has spread to everyone in town, all of whom now despise the Beech family. This prompts the townsfolk to march to the Beech farm with their farm weapons and torches to kill off the Beech family.
Sure, the last twenty minutes or so are somewhat action packed, but it takes the rest of the run-time to get there, with long overly dramatic establishing shots and very drab dialogue. During the early production of this film, actor Jason Patric was playing Abner, but mid-way through the film, he left the project. Maxwell said, it was because of creative differences, but I'm sure Patric knew this movie was going nowhere fast. The performance seems monotone and the delivery is stale.
The set pieces look okay at best and feels like it should be on Lifetime more than a big war film. And the pacing is so slow that I truly had a difficult time trying to stay awake throughout the entire movie. There are far better films that cover aspects of the Civil War than 'Copperhead'.
'Copperhead' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Unlike the film itself, this image looks very good, with great detail that's very sharp and vivid. This movie was shot digitally and has a sleek digital look to it at times, which might strike you as odd, considering this is a Civil War film. But none-the-less, the film is true to its source one-hundred percent.
You can see exquisite detail in closeups that reveal wrinkles, dirt, scars, and hairs in the actor's faces, as well as intimate stitching in the Civil War period costumes. The colors look good and have a very earthy tone to them, with good greens and browns. There is nothing that is very primary here or pops off screen vibrantly. In some of the darker scenes, things tend to get a little fuzzy, but it's not something to write home about. The skin tones seem natural and the black levels are mostly deep. There was no banding or aliasing that I noticed either. This video presentation is far better than the movie itself.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix and is not up to par, being a Civil War film and all. The sound is quite soft at all times, even during some of the action scenes. Even the surround speakers don't get a lot of play and tends to be more of a front heavy soundtrack, which is not a good thing, considering again - this is a war film. Instead, there is a lot of quiet dialogue and long shots of fields with wind blowing.
Not exactly something that is meant for great and immersive sound. The dialogue is always crystal clear and mostly easy to understand, although during some of the softer dialogue, I was trying to figure out what they were saying. The sound effects aren't loud at all and rarely use the surrounds to make us feel like we are in the moment. The LFE is okay at best and the dynamic range is not as wide as I'd like it to be. For this being the type of movie it is, it could have benefitted from having a much better and fully immersive sound design.
There are no extras on this disc.
If you're a fan of movies and documentaries that showcase all aspects of the Civil War, than I imagine you're familiar with Ron Maxwell and his other Civil War films, but this side-note from his two previous bigger budget movies doesn't leave a good impression. With its slow pace, bad acting, and drab story line, 'Copperhead' is not a great film. The video presentation is very good, but the audio mix isn't that great for a war film. And there are no extras whatsoever on this disc. Even for fans of the Civil War, feel free to skip this one all together.