Confederate soldier Frank Winslow is terrified of the war and eventually runs away from battle. But when he finds himself behind enemy lines with vital information, he must decide between ... See full summary »
Confederate soldier Frank Winslow is terrified of the war and eventually runs away from battle. But when he finds himself behind enemy lines with vital information, he must decide between his fear and his conscience. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
This interesting period melodrama ties together several themes, and generally succeeds in examining them during the course of the story. Neither of the most prominent characters (the father and son) are especially sympathetic, and yet the story is such that it involves your emotions for both of them, even when their actions are discreditable.
The 'coward' of the title is the son of a retired colonel, whose father insists that he enlist in the Confederate Army when the Civil War begins. "The Coward", like an earlier Thomas Ince feature, "Drummer Boy of the 8th", depicts the unfounded mass excitement that accompanied the outbreak of war, this time on the other side. Here, the son is practically the only one not filled with enthusiasm for the South's war effort. The crisis comes later on when the 'coward' is the only one who knows a piece of vital information.
The story that develops features several interesting turns, and it brings out various points not only about bravery and duty, but about family relationships and other themes. Some aspects of its perspective may seem a little odd now, but it presents its ideas believably and without overstatement.
Both the action sequences and the confrontations between father and son are often given Ince's attentiveness to detail and composition. Whether intentional or not, in a number of the family scenes the characters' movements are particularly deliberate, with the effect of drawing out their sometimes uncomfortable conversations, and thus increasing the tension. There is also quite a contrast established between the very civilized study in which the father repeatedly lectures his son, and the brutal tactics that he uses to get his son to do his bidding.
Civil War features were quite popular in this era, and there are others that are better remembered, but this movie has several strengths, and it provides a slightly different perspective of its own.
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