Coming to theatres from director Ron Maxwell based on the novel by Harold Frederic comes a personal war with COPPERHEAD.
This film tells the story of the Beech Family and household head Abner Beech (Billy Campell). Living in the era of the Civil War, there are people known as Copperheads – neither a Yankee nor a Rebel! A dairy farmer in upstate New York, Abner despises slavery but opposes the war President Lincoln in the middle of.
In the middle of town is Hagadorn (Angus Macfadyen), an anti-slavery leader in town who begins to turn the town against the Beech family. What he doesn’t know is that daughter Esther (Lucy Boynton) is in love with Jeff Beech (Casey Brown), Abner’s son who has now gone off to war. Also, son Ni (Augustus Prew) is shunned by Hagadorn so he takes off to find his friend Jeff!
During a town vote, Abner and his family come to town and face anger and hostility. Constantly pushing the town to turn even further against Abner’s family, Hagadorn does the unthinkable that turns brother against brother in a private war.
FINAL WORD: Campbell as Abner Beech plays the role straightforward, honest and with heart. This character is a very quiet man but believe it when its time to speak his presence requires your full attention. What patience to be able to watch those you call neighbor tear into a family and the strength not to do what others easily would in retribution.
Macfadyen as Hagadorn is just out and out the epitome of a man full of hate. It’s the hate that pushes his humanity and code of decency to an ugly place. Macfadyen, in his career, has played both sides and although I prefer his characters for good, I have to admit when he does wrong – it does it all out.
Prew as Ni was definitely raised right whether Hagadorn realizes it to late or not. Here this young actor is given the chance to portray a man who does what it right not what is popular. Boynton as Esther is in a Romeo & Juliet situation with Jeff and again, does what is right – well done!
Brown as Jeff has the relationship I’m sure all father’s and sons had during the Civil War – wanting to do what was right by their country and serving. Its only when they see the cruelty’s of war do they understand their father’s plea to never have gone. Cruddas as Jimmy is a lovely character who sees a town fall apart and neighbor turn against neighbor but is surrounded by the Beech clan who will stand up for what is right, always.
It’s always amazing to see Peter Fonda in a film and although his scenes short, they are poignant to the storyline of connection between neighbors during that era.
Novelist Harold Frederick wrote the 1893 novel THE COPPERHEAD and is also responsible for the 1896 book THE DAMNATION OF THERON WARE. It is writer/novelist Bill Kauffman that brings the book to screen with his first screenplay who is also from Upstate New York and familiar with Frederick’s works. Kauffman’s works include AIN’T MY AMERICA and FORGOTTEN FOUNDER, DRUNKEN PROPHET.
If that isn’t enough, director Ronald Maxwell has his own resume filled with epic films such as CIVIL WAR GETTYSBURG in 1993 and GODS AND GENERALS in 2003.
Other cast include: Francois Arnaud as Warner Pitts, Brian Downey as Preacher Taggart, Ryan Doucette as Byron Traux, Hugh Thompson and Hurley, Andrea Lee Norwood as Till Babcock, Josh Cruddas as Jimmy, T.S. David as Scott Owen, Brian Jamieson as Roselle Upman, Elizabeth Richardson as Tabitha Watkins, Genevieve Steele as My’rye Beech and Peter Fonda as Avery.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give COPPERHEAD three and a half tubs of popcorn out of five. This is an amazing cast putting together a storyline that is almost unheard of in history. The setting absolutely lends itself to telling such a harsh tale and instantly draws the audience into the era. The costuming is stellar from the farmers to the soldiers and in between.
This is a story of our history, however harsh and ugly it may seem for a time, it is still ours. The story here can quite easily be fit into today in its dedication to country and the rights our soldiers provide to us by their sacrifice. It also shows the viewer one of the other attributes of our country and that is we stand for what we believe – individually and collectively.
In the end – remember who we are helps us not repeat the past!