The director behind Gettysburg and Gods and Generals aims to tell a more intimate Civil War period piece with Copperhead, but his storytelling once again gets bogged down by excessive historical detail.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 2 Hr. 0 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 04/15/2014
In his latest Civil War period piece, director Ron Maxwell (Gettysburg and Gods and Generals) takes a look at the conflict from the perspective of the civilians, specifically “Copperheads” – Northerners who were opposed to the war. Taking place in a small community in Upstate New York in the Spring of 1862, the movie follows the Beech Family, whose patriarch Abner (Billy Campbell) is opposed to slavery, but also a staunch Democrat, viewing the Union's war with the Confederates as unconstitutional. His stance puts him in direct opposition to the town’s bombastic abolitionist, Fee Hagadorn (Angus Macfadyen), though even Abner’s own son Jeff (Casey Thomas Brown) challenges his father on his steadfast political views.
The Production Rating: 2/5
As the war intensifies and the rhetoric from both sides increases, Abner and his family begin to face discrimination from almost everyone in the community. Feeling less and less solidarity with his father, and having fallen in love with Hagadorn’s daughter Esther (Lucy Boynton), Jeff decides to enlist in the Union Army. This doesn’t seem to soften anyone’s view of Abner, however, and when the New York State elections usher in a Democratic majority, it adds fuel to the community's fire, leading to an unintentional, but tragic, turn of events for the Beech Family.
Based on a 19th Century novel by Harold Frederic, Copperhead offers a compelling premise with its little known, alternative perspective on the Civil War. Unfortunately, Maxwell squanders the opportunity by indulging in too many slice of life and historical context scenes, which bog down the narrative, not unlike when history reenactors get too enamored with details and lose their audience in the process. The film is well over halfway over by the time the primary conflict begins to develop, which may be fine with Civil War buffs keen on soaking up the historical authenticity, but doesn't go over so well with someone looking for a well told story. With some aggressive editing, that could have been the case, but as it is, Copperhead is simply a chore to sit through.
Framed at 2.40:1 and presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer features deep blacks and an uncompromised range of contrast. The color palette tends to be earthy, with warm but accurate tones and a satisfying level of saturation. Detail is also solid, holding up from close ups to wide shots. However, some high contrast edges exhibit some haloing and there's banding in shadow gradients.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently crisp, clear and intelligible, though at times a bit overemphasized in the mix. Surrounds are used primarily to support the score, though some scenes offer opportunities for crowd or environmental noises. LFE shows up in a critical scene, but seems a little excessive given the nature of the story.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
The release includes no bonus material.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
Warner Home Video offers a solid presentation for director Ron Maxwell's latest Civil War period piece, which over-indulges in its history at the cost of good storytelling. The release is a feature-only, barebones release, which is appropriate given the limited appeal to most viewers.
Overall Rating: 2/5
Reviewed By: Cameron Yee
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