I recently watched the film Copperhead with my family. I'd been excited about the project since hearing about it this spring, and waited for it to come to a theater near me. Well, I waited and waited, and eventually, the producer, Ron Maxwell decided to release it on other venues concurrent with the big screen. Lucky for me! We watched it on AppleTV in the comfort of our own living room. It is also available on itunes and Amazon.
Based on the novel The Copperhead by Harold Frederic, the film was shot at Kings Landing Historical Settlement in rural New Brunswick, a collection of reconstructed 19th century buildings, which gives the film a wonderfully authentic period feel.
The Beech family runs a dairy farm in a small northern NY town during the Civil War. The father (the Copperhead) is a Peace Democrat, pro-union and constitution, and opposes Lincoln's war. His son Thomas Jefferson Beech is in love with the lovely young school teacher, Esther Hagadorn, daughter of a firebrand and pro-Lincoln Republican Jee Hagadorn. The townspeople, predominantly Republican and whipped up into a lather by Jee, turn against Mr. Beech and refuse to do business with him for his Copperhead beliefs. When Thomas enlists to impress Esther, he leaves his family without a proper goodbye. The political strife stirs up murderous hate among former friends--can neighbors overcome war fever, or will their blind wrath turn deadly?
Very passionate portrayals of the two fathers by Billy Campbell as Abner Beech and Angus MacFadyen as Jee Hagadorn--(you might remember Angus MacFadyen playing Robert the Bruce in Braveheart). I liked the son of the Republican firebrand, Ni Hagadorn played by Augustus Prew, though his dialogue was sometimes mumbled and hard to decipher. He had some really quotable lines toward the end in his Love Thy Neighbor speech.
The cinematography was beautiful, and of course I loved the setting of Civil War upstate NY brought to life. The film was family friendly--no violence, no language, no risque moments--and had a happy ending for the most part and a profound and timely message in today's politically divisive atmosphere. I thought it was worth seeing, especially for Civil War buffs and students of history. It brought to light the history of dissenters in the North to the war and taught the untold history of Copperhead politics better than any text book.. It's a subject that no one has explored much until now. I think the current administration and Lincoln have much in common with their executive overreach and trampling of the Constitution, so in many ways, those who loved the Union but didn't agree with Lincoln and his war have much in common with modern conservatives.
Overall I gave it a 4 out of 5 stars for being unique, timely, and well played out.