Review from The Civil War News
"Film Uses Civil War as the Setting to Explore Emotions"
Written by Jeff Wilkinson

If you're looking for a Civil War film with a capital "C," featuring the panoramic battle sequences of a nation divided, rent "Gettysburg" or "Glory."

If you want a Civil War film with a small "c," which examines the bitter, bone-chilling hatred of a people divided, then "Pharaoh's Army" is the movie for you.

The film -- the first feature-length film by Robby Henson -- is set in the remote Cumberland Mountains of Kentucky. Here, loyalties vary from homestead to homestead and the war is fought by roving bands of marauders interested not in lofty ideals, but food and shelter.

It stars Chris Cooper (Matewan, Lonesome Dove) as a Union Army captain who leads his rag-tag cavalry up a misty creek on a foraging mission. They come upon the small, remote farm of Sarah Anders, played by Patricia Clarkson (The Untouchables, The Dead Pool). Anders is a proud, defiant woman whose husband is away fighting for the Confederacy. She also harbors an intense and justified hatred: Yankees dug the body of her infant daughter out of the community graveyard for being part of a Confederate family.

As the riders approach, Sarah and her young son (Will Lucas) attempt to hide their meager belongings, particularly a musket, a milk cow, and a photograph of the absent husband and father dressed in Confederate gray.

The Yankee detail finds it all anyway, but before they can leave, the youngest soldier, Newt (Huckleberry Fox) falls on a hay fork and is critically wounded. The detail decides to hole up at the farm until Newt is well enough to be moved.

Although the troopers in the detail eventually become anxious and restless in the stifling environment, the captain is reminded of his own farm which he was forced to leave when he joined the Army.

The close quarters of the farmhouse force Sarah and the captain to interact as they care for the injured man. Slowly they begin to speak not as enemies, but as people. The capain eventually reveals that the war has taken on of his family members as well -- his wife.

As the days pass, the captain begins helping with the chores on Sarah's run-down farm, particularly plowing the fields, which for him holds fond memories of home. A mutual and quiet respect develops between the two -- respect that is neither shared nor understood by the captain's troopers.

The conflict between the Rebel-hating troopers and the relationship between Sarah and the captain, played out on a backtgrop of hunger and desperation, illustrates the personal wars that were fought away from the battlefield.

The sullen beauty of the Cumberland Mountains -- brooding sky, barren trees and muddy farm yard -- provides a haunting backdrop for the personal conflicts. Henson, a native Kentuckian, shows an understanding not only of the Civil War, but of the physical and emotional terrain upon which it was fought.

Cooper and Clarkson give their characters the depth they deserve, the ensemble cast of Union troopers lend authenticity to the mission, and a cameo by Kris Kristofferson gives this small film a little extra star power.

The film is being released in select theaters only.

On March 22 it will be screened in three areas of North Carolina; Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Other play dates will be booked through April.

But the best chance to see the film will be on video. It is scheduled to be released on cassette in May.

(c)1996 The Civil War News. All rights reserved.

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