“What happened to love thy neighbor?”, A Review of Copperhead (2013)


History-based films always work the best when we can watch a particular story and relate to the characters, and then in our minds, just change a few things around, and all of a sudden, a movie set during a particular time period becomes very relevant to almost any era. This is what happens with Ron Maxwell’s Copperhead, a film so incredibly distanced from Gettysburg and Gods and Generals (both in content and style), in a sense that it takes the both-sides-are-right mentality and completely smashes it, instead, choosing to come right out and say that war is wrong, because no matter what side you are on, or what the result is, good people acting as mere pawns in a chess game for generals and politicians, will be killed and wounded regardless. The families and conflicts present in this movie could quite literally be anybody. Yes, they are dressed in 1860’s clothing and talk about far-gone politics, but switch a few items around, and the Beeches and Hagadorns (the two main families of this film) could be any, everyday people dealing with their children being sent off to fight in Vietnam, or perhaps more recent actions in the Middle East. It is a film that can reach out and touch us, bringing us into the history in a more intimate, down-to-earth way.

Copperhead does leave some to be desired, by way of certain actors needing more screen-time, and some characters who are not developed well-enough, but overall, this is a movie that people will be able to relate to and discuss, which is definitely very important for something so laden with politics. As has been said ad nauseum, this is nothing like Maxwell’s other Civil War movies, because the battleground is not of open fields and cannons, but of vitriolic politics, families divided, and homesteads being threatened by fire and rope. The civilian is an oft forgotten facet of all wars and their history, but thankfully this movie begins to show us that the men, women, and children far away from the battlefields were just as much warriors as the soldiers doing the fighting. All of this is helped along by the outstanding soundtrack by Laurent Eyquem, which contributes much to the feeling of the movie.

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Thoughts After a Private Screening of “Copperhead”

Greg with "Copperhead" director Ron Maxwell.
Greg with “Copperhead” director Ron Maxwell.

I have just returned from the Broadway Screening Room, located in the Brill Building in New York City, after having been invited by director Ron Maxwell to a private showing of his film Copperhead, the last time it will be viewed before the picture is locked. I am very limited in what I can say about the film, but I will give you a few tidbits below. I am actually going to write my full review in the next few days and save it for the late May/early June 2013 release, since it is so fresh in my head. Before I get to some details, I just want to say it was great getting a chance to sit and chat with Ron for a few minutes before the film, and also to see actor Brian Mallon again, after we met in the summer of 2011 at the Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut world premiere in Virginia. However, in contrast to that film, and Maxwell’s other Civil War work Gettysburg, Copperhead is one that is going to stand alone in terms of films made about the War Between the States. Simply put, it is unlike any other made about the subject ever.

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The Artistic Angle of Ron Maxwell’s “Copperhead”

I would just like to start off this post with an announcement, to tell you all that the official website for Copperhead: The War at Home will be experiencing a complete redesign and upgrade in the coming days. This post below was going to be my latest write-up, and since I don’t know if I will be able to post it immediately, I wanted to share it here, and also because I have not written anything on the film for this blog in quite some time, after moving official coverage over there. Please enjoy!

When you think of directors paying tribute to past artists in their films, what immediately comes to mind? For me, it would be an instance in a horror movie, where, when someone is getting killed, or if something frightening is happening, you hear music that is eerily similar to what Alfred Hitchcock used in Psycho, during the infamous shower scene. How about paying tribute to an older actor or actress, who experienced some greatness earlier in their career, but is now getting on in years? In The Night of the Hunter (1955), director Charles Laughton, an ardent admirer of D.W Griffith and his many castings of actress Lillian Gish, led him to multiple close-ups of the elder actress’s face in the only film he ever directed, to reflect some of her past glory as a superstar of the silent era and also his admiration, though she was not as familiar with what was the present-day audience. As yet another example, in 1957, for the filming of his epic meditation on man, fate, life, and death, Ingmar Bergman used medieval religious paintings and ballads as the basis for his setting and haunting cinematography of The Seventh Seal.

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Oscar-Nominated Actor Peter Fonda to Join Cast of “Copperhead”

Fonda in a scene from “3:10 to Yuma”.

Peter Fonda, who has twice been nominated for an Academy Award becomes the second newest addition to the cast of Copperhead in the last week, joining Billy Campbell who replaced Jason Patric in the lead role of Abner Beech a few days ago. Fonda will be playing the character of Avery.

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