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The story is set in 1884 during the British Empire uprising
Harry Faversham (Heath Ledger) is a young army officer from a distinguished military family who never wanted to join the army He did it for his father He resigns his commission on the eve of his regiment's departure for Sudan Harry has already disgusted his strict father, a respected General in the Queen's Army, by declaring no interest in a soldier's life and now that he is about to be married to his beloved Ethne (Kate Hudson), he wants to settle down
When his closest friends and fellow officers find out that he disgraced the regiment, they send him a box of feathers of cowardice When Ethne sends him another feather, he then disappears to redeem himself, to face up to his fears, to discover himself, to win back his self-respect...
Shekhar Kapur's "The Four Feathers" is beautifully filmed and performed The themes of love, honor, loyalty, friendship, trust, redemption, wisdom, true strength, and true courage are all there They made the characters entirely plausible But what truly lingers in the memory about it are the stunning sequences filmed in the Sudan and the splendid staging of several battles, showing the then standard British tactics employed in holding off attackersthe forming of squares, with riflemen deployed in standing, kneeling, firing, holding line, and keeping eye on the target These exciting scenes of combat and carnage are truly impressive
The newest rendition of the Four Feathers is a real epic, aesthetically
beautiful, sweeping, completely refreshing in terms of emotional
presentation and scope for both characters and audience. This is one of the
best of this year in terms of mainstream film.
The beginning drags, and the editing is confusing at times, the lighting is dark, and it has a rich (as in dense) atmosphere to it that can make it seem unnecessarily claustrophobic at times, yet which helps during certain scenes (don't want to give anything away). In fact the first 1/3 of the movie is a plum bore. But as soon as Harry goes off following some enemy spies, the movie flows beautifully. It becomes quite the rousing adventure, with lots of fairly disgusting dead bodies and their missing parts all over the place (surprising for a PG-13 flick) and the sole battle scene is one of the better ones I've ever seen, because it creates uncliched emotion, and it's very effective in creating a seemingly helpless situation, with great battle choreography to boot.
In a movie that has quite a few flaws, it does something really well, develops supporting characters (other than Wes Bentley). The 4 different comrades of Harry's, plus Adu (Hounsou's character), have faces and lives and are important to the flow of the story, though they seem fairly unimportant till it matters (again, don't want to give anything away), when something happens to them, you want to know, and care about, what will become of them. It was refreshing to actually know the fellow soldiers in a war movie for once! And it helps add to the great emotional impact this movie has.
The acting is OK. There are no bad performances, bad accents to be sure, but Heath Ledger ceases to be his heartthrob self and eventually turns into the character (somewhere between the chapped lips and matted hair I suppose), and provides a steady and trustworthy lead performance. Hudson, I think, is too big for her role, though she and Bentley both provided, again, well done and steady roles. Djimon Hounsou is really the standout. Other than technical aspects I don't think it'll get any nods, except maybe for Hounsou who is exceptional in the film.
I think that this is a very good film that boasts great cinematography, authentic and realistic costumes and excellent production design, and for me, a great emotional punch, plus a captivating adventure story. It's definitely not a teen flick, or chick flick, it's too gruesome and historical for either faction. And unlike other better systematically made films I've seen this year, it didn't feel "canned", too unoriginal, or overly pretentious, it felt fresh.
I think this suffered the fate of fairly bad advertising and early press and not living up to the expectation of "Elizabeth", but I'm glad I saw it because I really did enjoy it, a lot. Highly recommended.
The Four Feathers was a film that didn't receive much public interest
or anticipation when released in 2002. I didn't even hear of the film
until it was being advertised on STARZ as a new release on the network.
I decided to flick it on not expecting much but was pleasantly
surprised by the film.
Harry Faversham (Heath Ledger) is the son of a British war hero. Along with his friends, he is among the top officers being shipped to the Sudan where rebellion has broken out. Harry, unlike his friends, doesn't want to be a soldier and resigns his post. After receiving four white feathers from his friends and fiancée he decides to head to the Sudan to help his doomed friends.
The acting is top notch with Wes Bentley, Heath Ledger, and Djimon Hounsou in leading roles. The setting of the deserts of the Sudan is brilliant used in the film. The battle scenes aren't overdone and are emotionally charged. The film surprised me, with having such a great story, great acting, and great filming, I was disappointed to see it didn't get better from the critics and public.
Take my word for it, The Four Feathers is a worth see adventure/drama.
The Four Feathers. Starring: Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, Djimon Hounsou, and Kate Hudson.
3 1/2 out of 5 Stars.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie should have had SO much going for it. A top rated if
somewhat revisionistic director whose first big effort in the west,
Elizabeth, certainly made me look up and take notice. A pair of strong
male leads whose work in films like American Beauty and The Knights
Tale certainly wasn't shabby. Superb production values. And some
research certainly went into it as shown by the introduction which
references Sir Henry Newbolt's famous poem of Victorian and Edwardian
youth and manhood going into battle as if they were going to a football
Then, as they say in the Victorian army, 'it all went 'orribly wrong'.
SOME SPOILERS BELOW The history behind this director's chosen period - the first Gordon relief expedition - certainly has more than enough adventure and drama to it, particularly when one considers that not only does Newbolt immortalize it in Vitai Lampada but so does Kipling with his 'Fuzzy Wuzzy' who, indeed, did nearly break the legendary British squares at the battles of Abu Klea and Tamai.
Someone, however, needs to explain to this director what a SQUARE FORMATION is and what it does. This is more than just a military nerd's nitpicking it is - and one sees this at the party scene toward the start - a KEY ELEMENT in the narrative. The officers of the Royal Cumbrians 'form square' to create a nice little romantic space for the romantic leads but what's never explained - probably because the director doesn't get it - is that a square formation is key against both cavalry (as at Waterloo) and native warriors (as at Ulundi and the Sudan) because A SQUARE CANNOT BE FLANKED. You cannot 'get behind' a square and stab the hapless infantryman in the back because another face of the square is guarding the back. As such this formation, outdated on European battlefields where long-range rifle fire and more accurate cannons could mangle these squares at range, was key for fighting less technologically advanced or cavalry heavy enemies.
Now a square is ridiculously vulnerable to fire - logically a shot that hits one guy at one face of the square will hit someone on the opposite face. Infantry cannot stand in square for long as ranged fire will cut them down until there are too few men standing to maintain the formation. Thus the next thing that the director doesn't get comes into play - COMBINED ARMS. A square can stand IF it has artillery - sometimes outside as at Waterloo, sometimes at the corners as at Ulundi and the Sudan to shoot up attackers at range. And the British infantry had a wonderful new piece of artillery with them in the Sudan - the Machine Gun. When speaking of the colonial wars, one British politico remarked, "Whatever happens, we've got the Maxim gun and they don't".
Problem is, after referencing the Newbolt poem the director FORGETS the central stanza with its reference to 'The Gatling's Jammed and the Colonel's Dead'. This was one reason why the Brit squares were nearly broken on occasion by the fanatical Dervishes - the machine guns would sometimes jam, if fired too fast or if it got too hot or sand got into the mechanism, etc.
Toward the end of the battle the surviving British officer orders the soldiers to break formation and retreat. This totally ruined it for me. NO British officer in their right mind would be so stupid - sheer logic dictates that one REMAIN in formation as long as possible as a retreat, every man for himself, would lead to the utter destruction of the unit. Even the surrounded British companys at Isandhlwana fought back to back until they were utterly overwhelmed. By rights the entire regiment should have been eliminated to a man.
Well, that's the military side of things.
The actors are way too politically correct. Like it or not Victorians WERE racist in their attitudes to 'lesser breeds without the law' and no British officer would have hesitated to shoot a man who fired on his troops - the sharpshooter would have been shot down like a dog without a second thought. No explanation is really given for the political situation and one gets the impression that these are transplanted American GI's in Fallujah trying to win hearts and minds rather than British redcoats in the Sudan.
The speech of Durrance at the end was ludicrous and long and given the lack of emotion throughout the movie, never had a snowball's chance in hell of stirring up emotion for the man on the right (or left).
The editing was choppy - particularly toward the end when the couple are walking out of the barracks. The soldiers drilling in the background jump-cut all over the place.
The film, for all the redcoats and 'jolly good old boy' accents NEVER invokes the Victorian era in manners or morals. The director just does NOT get the heart of the film that at this time courage, honour and all those things which we consider effete and stupid today were actually cherished - at least until the carnage of WW1 showed them to be idols with feet of clay.
SPOILERS END HERE.
As a film it's overblown, revisionist and Kate Hudson is horribly miscast. There are many fine British and Commonwealth actresses - why Kate? Just because Almost Famous made her flavour of the month? This film was about as Victorian as Shanghai Knights. No Gunga Din, Zulu or Man Who Would Be King, this one. Spare yourself the agony and expense and watch one of the above three instead of this rotten egg of a picture.
This movie has got it all: an aussie hottie, love, honor and obey,
cultures and is well acted.
I can't understand why this movie has blown the box office with so much,
why all the reviewers have slaughtered it.
Heath Ledger plays well (as always), and of course Kate Hudson is beautiful in it. If I would have anything to complain about in this picture, it would be that maybe the chemistry between Heath and Kate wasn't that great, but nobody is to blame here.
This is a fabulous movie with great and good looking actors, and if I should have guessed why the movie didn't sell, I would say that it was because they didn't promote this movie enough.
While watching the movie, you can go from crying to laughing at no time, and when a movie conquers that, it's just a blessing watching it.
Heath Ledger can really show what he has got to offer, since this movie is very different from his last "A Knight's Tale". Heath is clever by taking such different roles, just to show what he's got: "Two Hands" (black comedy),"The Patriot" (war, thriller), "Ned Kelly" (western, thriller), "The Order" (horror, mystery) and his most recently, not yet relished: "The Brothers Grimm" (adventure).
The director, Shekhar Kapur, did a good job on this one. He told the actors to make the sand in the desert to look like water and waves, and they did a good job doing just that. All in all, this movie should been a success, because it simply has it all. Too bad.
This sixth rendition about known story by A.E.W. Mason concerns on a
British young officer named Harry Faversham (Heath Ledger) . Resigning
from Army , he's rejected by his father (Tim Pigott-Smith), branded as
a coward and sent four white feathers by his friends (Wes Bentley,
Michael Sheen) and his engaged fiancée (Kate Hudson) . Determined to
save his honor he heads to Sudan against Derviches . There arrives the
expedition of help commanded by General Wolsey and Kitchener for stifle
the rebellious Sudan's tribes ruled by 'the Madhdi', the ¨expected one¨
(events narrated in ¨Khartoum¨ film -1966- with Charlton Heston and
Laurence Olivier , directed by Basil Dearden). The Madhi along with
Arab tribes had besieged Khartoum (1884) and vanquished General Gordon
. Faversham disguised himself as a native will save his friends from
certain death and he will retrieve the lost honors . He's only helped
by a valiant African-Muslim native (Dijimon Honsou) . Then , there took
place the major fight scene , the Battle of Abu Klea , on January 17,
1885 when British Desert Column of approximately 1,100 troops fought a
Mahdist force of over 12,000 dervishes .
This spectacular adventure detailing the epic feats of a brave hero contains noisy action , idealism , romance , unlimited courage , breathtaking battles and impressive outdoors . Heath Ledger as a stubborn officer is cool , Wes Bentley as his best friend is convincingly played and Kate Hudson as his girlfriend is enjoyable . Special mention to Dijimon Honsou as the corpulent helper . Sensational battle scenes made by hundreds of extras and by means of computer generator . Evocative cinematography reflecting the late 1800's and spectacular African landscapes by cameraman Robert Richardson . Appropriate and atmospheric musical score by James Horner . The motion picture was professionally directed by Shekhar Kapur . He's a costumer/epic expert , as he proved in ¨Bandit queen ¨and ¨Elizabeth I¨ and its sequel . Other adaptations about this famous story are the followings : The classic rendition by Zoltan Korda (1939) with John Clemens , Ralph Richardson and Jane Duprez ; 'Storm over the sand' (1955) by Terence Young with Anthony Steel , James Robertson Justice , Mary Ure and Laurence Harvey ; and for TV (1978) By Don Sharp with Beau Bridges , Jane Seymour and Robert Powell.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film had so many things going for it, despite the odds. In the end, it
was the odds that pulled it down. The film was well made, and though I
wasn't too impressed with Elizabeth I think Shekhar Kapur did an admirable
job under very pressurised situations (constantly visited by worried
producers, directing a film whose script isn't finished yet, the rigours of
the desert, as well as the daunting aspect of directing 1,000+ extras which
few films nowadays have with the advent of CGI replicating). The
cinematography was wonderful, seriously on par with The English Patient
though in a different way - in its way. The score - what can I say about it
except that I've almost worn out the score soundtrack CD by James Horner due
to the unique Qawwali wailings combined with a heartbreaking and tender
piano theme. Heath Ledger, Kate Hudson and Wes Bentley, all non-Brits, did
an admirable job handling the accents and still managing to come out with
dramatic performances. I don't get it - why did non-Brits accuse them of not
having perfect accents? I don't know whether they have perfect accents but
they certainly sounded British. Some people said they were stiff. I don't
see how that could be a complaint for a movie set in Victorian Britain. The
script was not bad - nothing negative should be said about
Now here is where the theatrical release of the film faltered - the editing. The original cut was three hours long, a release which apparently Miramax boss approved of. Somehow, 9/11 got in the way due to the anti-colonialist stance of the movie. Also, studios generally dislike 3-hour releases. Kapur was flung back into the editing room to chop it down to 2 hours. Which he did. And many people complained that the movie was incoherent, that there were jumps. And this is why. (Spoilers till end of paragraph.) I think the scene where Ethne's feather was presented to Harry may have been filmed but was cut, causing some people to lament the loss of a dramatic moment. Also, many people couldn't understand the motives behind Harry's actions, first leaving the army, then going after his friends. I believe the editing had a lot to do with that.
In other words, everything about the movie was good, right up to before it was to be edited to 2 hours. Some people might complain it was boring - they deserve to watch films like The Matrix and that's it - that's all they deserved. Some people kept saying that the previous version(s) were better. Maybe that's true for the older folks but for me (and I believe for most of the younger generations) it is difficult for us to watch films made decades ago, due to the different style and pacing of different eras. The older generation may watch films such as Chicago and lament the advent of the MTV generation; whereas people like me would watch Casablanca and find it wide-open-mouth-shocked to be ranked 2nd on the AFI 100 Films. So I believe there is nothing wrong with the remaking of The Four Feathers - it is making a period film using today's kind of epic filmmaking style. You can see how the colours are so rich, how the battle scenes are filmed in ways more sophisticated than a 1939 film can.
Also, poor marketing has failed this movie, causing it to earn only 1/4 of its budget on the domestic market. On the other hand, I did noticed that negative critics tend to be American. Some people actually thought of it as swashbuckling adventure. It is not - while Harry may do things that seem impossible realistically, it works fine in a film which also aims to make people feel rather than just watch. There is enough realism that it doesn't look stupid. Apparently Americans disagree - one viewer reported laughing in the cinemas ... and it isn't the part where the Englishman is laughing.
The DVD version has been released in the US. It is the Special Collectors' Edition, but it remains the same 2-hour flawed movie. I charge that Miramax release a 3-hour Director's Cut edition of the movie in its DVD release overseas. The film deserves at least that.
I've always been a fan of historically inspired epic movies and
although I'm not a fan of costume drama's, I don't really care about
the time period these movies are set in. This one has been set at the
end of the 19th century, a time period that comes close to the one that
I like most in the movies (1914-1950), but even movies set in medieval,
Greek and Roman times I can enjoy...
As I already said, this movie has been set at the end of the 19th century, in 1898 to be more precise. When a British officer is about to be sent to Sudan to fight a war he doesn't approve of, he is seen as a coward. He has to resign his post, right before his regiment ships out to battle the rebels, and to make things even worse for him, he receives four white feathers from his friends and his fiancée. These feathers symbolize how they feel about him, they see him as a coward, but what they don't know is that he plans to go to Sudan anyway, undercover, so he can save his friends from a certain death and redeem his honor...
The story certainly is interesting and offers an interesting approach to a story that has been told many times before. But what I liked even more than the story was the photography. Everything was portrayed in a very nice way, especially when they are in Sudan. I'm not saying that the part of the movie showing England isn't any good, but I'm not too much a fan of those Victorian costumes and habits. I prefer the dust and dirt from the desert and the battles in which good manors only come later and the true human nature gets the upper hand.
Even though many people seem to hate this movie, I can't join them in their opinion. All actors did a nice job and even though it is perhaps true that they could have found a better actress than Kate Hudson to play the role of Ethne, it never bothered me in such a way that it spoiled all the rest of my fun. And about the historical accuracy I can be brief as well. It looked good enough to me to be believable. Perhaps there were some minor details that weren't right, but since I'm not too familiar with the time period shown in this movie, I certainly didn't notice them. Anyway, I liked what I saw and even though many people gave it a bad review, I certainly liked it for what it was: A very decent movie about honor, freedom, friendship,... I know that these words are too often abused in many Hollywood movies, but this time it worked for me and that's why I give this movie a 7.5/10.
Bad camera work only adds to this this films problems. The story rambles, for some reason they changed the war to the first war in the Sudan but you never see General Gordon. The British are made to look like the bad guys but it's never pointed out that the Mahdi was involved in the slave trade.I guess they wanted to save the money it would have cost to stage the battle of Omdurman to do the correct war. Get the 1939 version for a GREAT film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
British author A.W.E. Mason, sometimes referred to as the poor man's
Rudyard Kipling, would rollover in his grave if he saw what a shambles
Indian-born (as in India) director Shekhar Kapur of "Elizabeth" has
made of his classic war novel about camaraderie, cowardice, and second
chances. For the record, Hollywood produced "The Four Feathers" for the
first time in 1915 and the second time in 1921. American director
Merian C. Cooper of "King Kong" fame came along and made it the third
time in 1929 with Fay Wray and Richard Arlen in 1929, and British
director Zoltan Korda did the best known version in color in 1939, (the
fourth time if you're counting) with Ralph Richardson. Weirdly enough,
Korda remade "The Four Feathers" under a different title in 1955 called
"Storm Over the Nile" with Anthony Steel, James Robertson Justice, Ian
Carmichael, Ronald Lewis, Michael Hordern. In 1977, Don Sharp made the
fifth version as an NBC-TV television movie with Beau Bridges, Robert
Powell, Simon Ward, and Jane Seymour. Since then this durable adventure
about the imperial British Army in African has emerged as a perennial
favorite with filmmakers. So far they have remade it seven times, six
times on screen and once for television. As the seventh remake, Kapur's
version of "The Four Feathers" seems more plucked than profound, more
improbable than possible, and more jingoistically old-fashioned than
fashionable. Watch the Charlton Heston blockbuster "Khartoum" (1966)
for an historical frame of reference.
Indeed, "Horse Feathers" might have been a title more befitting this sprawling but shallow spectacle about the British Empire in its heyday. Nevertheless, "The Four Feathers" looks pictorially gorgeous on the big-screen with its grand-scale battles and its savage Moroccan scenery. Unfortunately, this swashbuckling costumer lacks the guts of its glorious predecessors. Wishy-washy characters, preposterous plotting, and Kapur's uneven storytelling plucks this rendition of "The Four Feathers." Essentially, "The Four Feathers" chronicles the rise, fall, and redemption of Victorian-Era British Army officer Harry Faversham (Australian heartthrob Heath Ledger of "Monster's Ball"), who resigns his commission when he learns the Queen Mum plans to ship the Royal Cumbrian Regiment off to the Sudan to combat revolting Arab tribesmen. "I sometimes wonder," Faversham comments in half-hearted protest, "what a godforsaken desert in the middle of nowhere has to do with her majesty the queen.
Not only does Faversham's decision infuriate his dad, a proud British Army General Faversham (Tim Pigott-Smith of "Gangs of New York") who disowns him, but it also galls Harry's longtime comrades-at-arms: William Trench (Michael Sheen of "Blood Diamond"), Tom Willoughby (Rupert Penry-Jones of "Charlotte Gray") and Edward Castelton (Kris Marshall of "Love Actually"), and his distraught fiancée Ethne (Kate Hudson of "Almost Famous"). Each sends him a white feather, a symbol of cowardice in English circles. Only Harry's closest friend Jack Durrance (Wes Bentley of "American Beauty") refuses to give him a feather. Anyway, the British Army lands in the Sudan, while Harry wallows in misery. When he learns his pals have gotten themselves captured, our psychic protagonist storms off to save them, masquerading as an unconvincing "Lone Ranger/Rambo" nomad. During his journey of hardship, Harry befriends About Fatma (scene-stealing Djimon Hounsou of "Gladiator"), a destiny-bound, "Last of the Mohicans" style, native mercenary who becomes his guide and sidekick.
Scenarist Michael Schiffer of "The Peacemaker" and Hossein Amimi of "Jude" have trivialized this timeless tale of testosterone. First, they have changed Mason's hero's name from Faversham to Feversham. Second, they refuse to explain why our hero chickens out. Is he a coward? Or an idealist? Basically, "The Four Feathers" recycles every cliché you have ever seen in a cavalry versus the Indians western, with Redcoats replacing bluecoats and Islamics instead of Apaches. Actually, the British wore grey coats, not redcoats. If you want to see the best version of "The Four Feathers," catch the 1939 Technicolor version and skip this harmless but half-baked hokum.
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