The story of the Civil War, because of all that it stood for and the impact it has had on our country, has been told in many different ways. Some of the greatest movies depicting the horrors and the setting of the war include Gettysburg, Gods and Generals, and Glory. Copperhead stands out from the majority of these movies, with a fresh look on the impact of the war, as felt by a few families in a small town.
As unlikely as it may seem, there isn't a single scene that takes place on the battlefield in this movie. Instead, we see the devastation the war and the political disagreements have on individual families living in a small town in Upstate New York.
The movie is based on a book by Harold Frederic, who lived through the events and wrote about them in 1893. It tells the story of Abner Beech, a father and husband, and most importantly for this movie, a Copperhead.
Copperheads was the nickname given to those living in the North who did not agree with the decision to go to war with the south. Many mistook their convictions for being sympathetic with slavery, but that was not the issue. Instead, they were against war and the accompanying horrors of it, particularly with fellow Americans, even brothers and sisters. They also stood firmly for the Constitution, and did not agree that a President had sole authority to issue executive orders as Lincoln did. As Beech warned, "There are cures worse than disease." Often times, both in the past and in present day, we become so focused on an issue close to our heart, we make decision for the moment rather then for the future, often making compromises with important principles and freedoms. This is what Beech feared.
The political aspects alone could keep any group talking for hours after the movie, and should cause us all to reflect on our own modern day politics, but it does not stop with the political disagreements. It shows the devastating effects of what happens when families and towns are ripped apart due to disagreements and varying viewpoints.
The cinematography is beautiful, as is the music. This is not a movie that will rattle your seat, or even keep you on the edge of it. There are scenes with almost no talking, filled with long dramatic pause. The pause is there to give you time to feel the pain in the situation, empathize with it, and even apply the lessons taught to your own life. While there are no battle scenes, the tension and pain the participants go through is real enough to stir you.
The movie concludes with a strong warning, one Biblically based, that is a good reminder to all of us, to be cautious with our passion for our principles and our beliefs. While they are important, we must never forget to "love our neighbors". The theme is strong and illustrated well, before building to its final conclusion. It doesn't come of preachy, but serves as a gentle but firm reminder.
The movie has little to no foul language or violence. It's a very soft PG-13, only due to tense situations and discussions. My 11 year old has no problem watching it. A good movie to see, and discuss, around Independence Day.
Note: The music was unavailable to embed on my review, but if you would like to hear a sample, visit the composer's website.