0

In 1884, Harry Faversham, Heath Ledger, is looking forward to a brilliant future as an officer in the Royal Cumbrians, the regiment in which his father is an officer. Not only is Harry popular with his friends, including Jack, Wes Bentley, but he's just become engaged to marry the beautiful Ethne, Kate Hudson, herself the daughter of an officer. When Britain becomes involved in a war in The Sudan against the Mahdi, members of the Royal Cumbrians eagerly anticipate action, but not Harry who, risking disgrace, resigns from the regiment. Immediately he's branded a coward by his friends, and by Ethne, each of whom give him a white feather as a symbol of his cowardice. Harry is determined to redeem himself. It seems a strange time to make yet another screen version of A.E.W. Mason's stirring story of the courage of a disgraced British soldier in North Africa; the best screen version of the story, which has been filmed five times before, was made in 1939 by Zoltan Korda, and, at that time, the concepts of heroism and British superiority were still more or less valid. Today, the film seems a gigantic miscalculation, and the major changes made to the story only add to the problems: originally, Harry was branded on the forehead so that he could pose as a member of an Arab tribe who've had their tongues cut out - so that he doesn't have to talk - that's obviously far too extreme for the makers of this new version. The characters here are one-dimensional and the plotting difficult to accept, but the battle scenes are well staged, and the Moroccan locations, beautifully photographed, look spectacular. In keeping with what is supposed to entertain the kids these days, the editing is atrocious with far too much cutting in the action sequences so that the individual images hardly have a chance to register. As a contemporary action-adventure, The Four Feathers is stillborn.Comments by Margaret PomeranzComing to this film after its failure to ignite enthusiasm in the United States resulting in its delayed release plus the disappointing ‘word-of- mouth, I actually found quite a lot to admire in The Four Feathers. Admittedly it’s a hoary old tale of old-fashioned honour which may seem archaic in today’s world but Shekar Kapur’s ability to evoke the epic in some scenes is certainly impressive. Heath Ledger was convincing as Harry, the recipient of the four feathers after he resigns his commission from his regiment on the eve of war. Also terrific is Djimon Hounsou who plays Abou, the chance-met warrior who takes on Harry as his moral responsibility. It’s a rattling tale of derring-do in colonial times but Kapur and his screenwriter have given a bit of a bite to that concept of the might and right of Queen and Country. What isn’t so good about the film are some of the performances, notably Wes Bentley who plays Harry’s great friend and Kate Hudson, obviously miscast as his fianc?. There is a jarring nature to the editing, making you doubt some of Kapur’s decisions about placement and length of shots in the cutting room. But, perhaps because I expected to be disappointed, I thought this an OK yarn about a bygone world, with some breathtaking shots by cinematographer Robert Richardson and some impressive action by Ledger himself.

Details

MA15+
2 hours 11 min

Genres