The Four Feathers
3 out of 5 stars
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Told several times on-screen already, this classic story gets a sumptuous production with this elegant and entertaining film. Harry (Ledger) is a rising star in 1870s British army, so in love with his beautiful fiancee Ethne (Hudson) that he doesn't know his best friend Jack (Bentley) is harboring feelings for her himself. Then war breaks out in the Sudan, and they're ordered to leave. Harry has cold feet and resigns his commission; Jack defends him but three soldier pals and Ethne all give him white feathers signifying cowardice. His life is ruined, so with nothing to lose, Harry heads to the Sudan to win back his self-respect ... and, with the help of a friendly local (Hounsou) he meets along the way, rid himself of those feathers.

Beautifully filmed and performed, this film is much like Kapur's Elizabeth in that it has a lot of visual style that hints heavily at the layers of depth below without ever fully excavating the story's riches. It feels meaningful and profound, but it's really just superficial entertainment. There are several moments of Monty Python absurdity, especially in the astonishing attack scene in which a very Michael Palin-looking Penry-Jones keeps shouting for his men to "return to the square!" On the other hand, Ledger gives a gutsy and involving performance (and obviously does at least one of the dangerous stunts himself!), while Hounsou provides yet another pivotal and imposing character with real life and spirit. As expected with Kapur, the direction, cinematography, art direction, music and costumes are brilliant. Yet the story doesn't quite add up. Themes of bravery, friendship and love are strong and moving, but mixing this unapologetically with what are now archaic British colonial values is a wee bit awkward, to say the least.

cert 15 themes, violence 13.Nov.02 lff

dir Shekhar Kapur
scr Michael Schiffer, Hossein Amini
with Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, Kate Hudson, Djimon Hounsou, Michael Sheen, Rupert Penry-Jones, Tim Pigott-Smith, Alex Jennings, Alek Wek, Kris Marshall, Daniel Caltagirone, Lucy Gordon
release US 20.Sep.02; UK 18.Jul.03
Miramax
02/UK 2h05

Pre-war. Life is a ball, literally, for Ethne and Harry (Hudson and Ledger) before he's ordered to go to Africa...

LONDON FILM FESTIVAL

ledger bentley hudson

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... one man must risk everything he loves Laurie T, Minneapolis: "I can see why it did not last long at the theatres - I actually got bored! kept waiting for something to happen! Sigh ... like what is the point here?" (16.May.04)
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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