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Reviews & Ratings for
The Four Feathers More at IMDbPro »

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what a surprise

Author: None from Netherlands
16 August 2015

I have to admit, looking at the scores I wasn't expecting a really good movie, but to my surprise it was.

The story was way better then I assumed and acting was good. For me the movie was more then worth watching and left me with a good feeling.

I liked the fights and the struggle to find his friend and regain his proud as the feather stand symbol for coward behavior. Also the unexpected help, which I couldn't really figure out why was a nice swing in this movie.

I think this is something really worth watching and I hope you enjoy it as I did.

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White Man's Burden

Author: tieman64 from United Kingdom
14 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a review of "Storm over the Nile" (1955), "Khartoum" (1966) and "The Four Feathers" (2002), three films based on British actions during the Mahdist War (1881-1899).

The 19th century saw colonial powers scrambling across Africa. As the British Empire expanded from Southern Africa to the Mediterranean, the Ottomans expanded from Turkey to Northern Africa and the French from West Africa to the Red Sea. All three would converge upon Egypt, which would continually shift hands between the three Empires.

Britain eventually emerged victorious, becoming defacto ruler of Egypt in 1882. Egypt would henceforth become a base for further British expansion southward into Sudan. The Sudanese would attempt to fend off these advances. They'd rally behind Muhammad Ahmad, an Islamic messianic or "Mahdist" figure. Muhammad Ahmad was denounced by Sudanese elites, but embraced as a revolutionary leader by marginalised Nilotic tribes.

Experts at using divide-and-rule tactics, the British divided Sudan into loosely demarcated northern and southern zones. The north became Muslim and Arab dominated and was integrated with the economic networks along the Nile. The south, steeped in poverty, was treated as an "African zone". A cocktail of Muslim, Christian and tribal groups, the south Sudanese were indoctrinated into thinking themselves culturally/biologically distinct and inferior. Promising independence and even salvation (he claimed to be paving the way for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ), Muhammad Ahmad set out to overturn this. Like the countless Christian messianic figures who sprung up as a result of Roman occupation, and a precursor to contemporary Islamic militants, he was the inevitable product of naked Imperialism.

The city of Khartoum straddled northern and southern Sudan. To the North, the British suppressed the slave trade, heavily invested in social, educational and health services, and essentially nurtured a "liberalised" form of Islam. As colonialism recruitment policies favoured educated Arabs, a new socio-economic class was created so as to offer a bulwark against Mahdism and secular nationalism. An ideological bulwark, however, is no match for guns.

In 1884, after a three month siege, Khartoum fell to the Mahdists, who stormed the city and executed British governor-general Charles Gordon. The Empire reacted swiftly. British forces under Herbert Kitchener rolled in and slaughtered tens of thousands of Sudanese. By 1898, most Mahdists were crushed. Sudan henceforth became subject to joint Anglo-Egyptian governance.

Unsurprisingly, the British set out to exacerbate regional, religious and racial divisions amongst the Sudanese. In 1922, in what became known as the "Southern Policy", the Empire declared that southern Sudan would be considered a "Closed District". Islamic proselytisers were banned, Arabic languages and clothing were discouraged, and Christian missionaries were brought in to convert southerners. Meanwhile, southern Arab merchants were relocated to the north and interactions between the peoples of the north and the south were forbidden. Such segregationist policies were designed to keep the south economically backward and foster divisiveness.

Today, little has changed in Sudan. Artificially carved out of a myriad of peoples, with more than 400 ethnic and linguistic groups lumped together within its borders, the country remains ravaged by the divide-and-rule tactics of modern neo-Imperialists. Milking the nation's oil fields and precious metals, the United States, and recently China, have today become expert at funding and arming militias and bloody regimes in both the north and south.

Zoltan Korda would produce and co-direct "Storm Over the Nile" in 1955, a film based on "The Four Feathers", a 1902 novel by Alfred Mason. The plot? Refusing to sail with his regiment to the Sudan, Harry Faversham (Anthony Steel), the cowardly scion of a military family, overcomes his disgrace by travelling to Africa. Here he helps his regiment defeat Sudanese forces. As with many Imperialist adventures, the film glorifies queen and country, assumes the rightness of British rule, romanticises colonialism and posits loyalty and responsibility to the ruling classes as the highest ideal. Though stiff and dull in places, the film boasts several impressive action sequences, filmed in expansive Cinemascope.

The 1950s/60s saw the release of numerous films which attempted to rejuvenate British nationalism and which were determined to white-wash the realities of colonialism ("Zulu", "North West Frontier", "Khartoum", "55 Days at Peking", "The Black Tent" etc). Supercharged by the civil rights and independence movements of the 1950s-60s, such perspectives were slowly contested ("Gandhi", "Guns at Batasi", "Burn!", "The Man Who Would Be King", "Passage to India" etc), eventually giving rise to the latest adaptation of "The Four Feathers", a 2002 film which was so politically correct as to be ridiculous.

Directed by Shekhar Kapur, "The Four Feathers" (2002) tells virtually the same story as "Storm over the Nile". Here actor Heath Ledger plays Harry Faversham, who is no longer a "coward" but a man of conscience who has "ethical objections to colonialism". Harry travels to Sudan, where he befriends and fights alongside Africans and where he teaches us to question nationalism, exceptionalism and pride. Dull and conventionally shot, the film's attempts at "rectifying" its source material are mostly hokey. In some ways it is even more racist than Korda's film, Africans reduced to props, whole cultures reduced to ridiculous musical choices and second-hand "exotic" signifiers.

Released in 1966, and directed by Basil Dearden, "Khartoum" stars Charlton Heston as Charles Gordon, a British General sent to Sudan to battle Muhammad Ahmad (Lawrence Olivier). Gordon valiantly defends a fortress in Kartoum, but is eventually overrun.

By having its heroes outnumbered, like cowboys surrounded by hordes of manic Indians, "Khartoum" manoeuvres its audience into siding with colonialists. Elsewhere it uses Gordon's demise to criticise political leaders who refuse to rally behind valiant troops. Heston, who spent the decade battling hordes of on-screen "savages", is himself a caricature of British bravery, whilst Ahmad never rises above the level of black-faced bogeyman. Still, "Kartoum" has its merits. Impeccably shot, tense, filled with impressive battles and awesome landscapes, it remains the best of a certain brand of 1950s/60s, pro-Imperialist adventure.

5/10 - Worth one viewing.

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Only the battle scene

Author: SnoopyStyle
2 August 2014

Harry Faversham (Heath Ledger) is a new young British officer getting engaged to the Ethne (Kate Hudson). He and his friends are dispatched to Egyptian-ruled Sudan to fight the Islamic rebels of the Mahdi. He is more reluctant than the rest. He resigns before the regiment ships out. His father disowns him. His girl abandons him. His friends William Trench (Michael Sheen), Tom Willoughby (Rupert Penry-Jones) and Edward Castleton (Kris Marshall) each sends him a feather of cowardice. Ethne sends him the fourth feature. He undertakes a journey to rejoin his regiment in Sudan. Meanwhile, it's a tougher fight than the British expected with a more determined opponent. Former mate Jack Durrance (Wes Bentley) is sent back to convince the public to relieve General Gordon in Khartoum. Ethne is taken with Jack. On the march there, Harry surreptitiously joins the troops as one of the local baggage handlers. There are many Mahdi spies among the them. Abou Fatma (Djimon Hounsou) befriends the mysterious Brit among the locals.

The movie is too slow at the beginning. The structure is too standard and old fashion. This being a remake is begging for a more imaginative structure. The beginning can always be done in flashbacks. This is too stale of a costume drama. It needs something in the beginning to keep the audience's interest. It needs an ambush on the Brits. It needs an action scene to bring in some excitement. The rest of the movie is setting up to the British square. That battle is impressive but it's the only thing that is impressive. Harry in the middle of the battle is somewhat ridiculous. The rest of the movie is lackluster.

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Pretty much bland and predictable

Author: KineticSeoul from United States
1 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is not the flick with those good emotional drama that tugs at you nor does it feel like it has heart to it. In fact I was quite bored with this movie and quickly lost the intention for it. Now I haven't read the novel but after watching this flick I don't really feel like it. But it did sort of caught me off guard since I thought it was gonna go in that "The Count of Monte Cristo" direction but it didn't really. The thing is this movie fails to leave that impact even near the end. The transition from a guy starting out as a coward becoming heroic is done in a manner where there isn't a single gripping moment in the entire movie. Heath Ledger and Wes Bentley seemed to do well, at least with what they were given. But Kate Hudson who plays the love interest between the two male leads is the most dis-likable character in this movie. Despite her not even being in the movie much. This is pretty much a bland and over drawn out movie that becomes very predictable early on.


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old fashion

Author: Armand from Romania
29 October 2012

admirable story about values. a lesson about courage, sacrifice and friendship. powerful, subtle, impressive. an old fashion film. and an extraordinary work. it is difficult to give a verdict. sure, war, romance, historical slices are ingredients for a nice cocktail. but The Four Feathers is a little more. and this fact is essential. Heath Ledger makes a great role. entire art of nuances, entire force of performance are bricks for an extraordinary character. the truth as heart of personal battle, the action scenes, the dialogs - each - part of authentic jewel. so, it is not a film for descriptions or critics. only source of impressions.

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Not a total disaster, but could've been improved.

Author: chucknorrisrules from United Kingdom
30 November 2010

I have often taken part in studying Victorian history (partly due to my interest in steam trains)and have recently moved on to Imperial history (which previously only extended to the railways laid in India and Africa) and I have learned a lot. Therefore this film has been of a lot of interest to me.

The premise is a solid one. Heath Ledger plays Harry Faversham a British army officer in the late Victorian period of the 1880s-1890s. Peacetime soldiering is uneventful, with marriage to his fiancé imminent, but when a violent clash occurs between Islamic fighters in Sudan and the British Army, Faversham seems uneager to go to war unlike his friends, and returns o be with his fiancé. Unfortunately, all of them take a dim view of these actions, and they deliver him four white feathers as symbols of his perceived cowardice.

Desperately keen to prove them all wrong, Faversham heads out to the Sudan to return the feathers back to his friends as the war spirals into disaster. And this is where things start to go wrong in the story. The characters are split up by the results of the battle, and Harry's redemption seems a little lacking in climax.

This seems odd, as the previously solid structure of the film seems to break apart in the battle with the British defeat (when in reality this was actuall a victory, and could've kept the story intact had it been kept this way).

All the character journeys seem to confusingly switch from one to the other, including a brief love triangle that doesn't seem to work in its execution. Surprisingly, there are few moments in this film of the British as brutal monsters, the closest we get is a bit with Djimon Honsou's character being whipped for an unclear charge, but if the director Khapur wished to explore this theme he hasn't made it clear enough to the audience. In general, the final part of the film is touching in its performance by the generally good main cast and sympathy for the main characters, but unfortunately comes across as too insubstantial to be worth paying for.

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a missed chance

Author: fordixieland61 from United States
8 July 2006

I have read the book The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason, and it is a timeless classic. I have heard the 1939 version of this book is a classic as well. So when I first saw this movie I was anticipating a well made movie. Sadly I was disappointed. While the films overall cinematography is well done, and it's musical score that is about it. Besides being inaccurate in several major historical instances most notably all references made to Charles Gordon, for instance Durrance goes back to Britain to lobby the government to send a relief expedition to rescue Gordon, however the battle shown in the film is Abu Klea which was fought during Wolseley's expedition to relieve Gordon. Overall the acting is poor to marginal at best, specifically Kate Hudson's role as Ethne Eustace was not well acted. And it is confusing at times who the characters are. The Abu Fatma character in and of itself seems clichéd. And on top of all that the whole message that the director was trying to make of anti-colonialism was not exhibited at all. Abu Fatma, a native from the Sudan who was educated in Britain helps Feversham save his friends, the only main characters all helped the colonizer, and Feversham redeems his honor helping the Empire. Overall this movie is marginal at best and lacks structure overall.

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This version has many strengths, but at the end of the day, is inferior to the 1939 classic.

Author: John Jennings from United States
17 January 2006

This version has many strengths, but at the end of the day, is inferior to the 1939 classic.

Believe me, I hoped the best for this film, I wanted it to kick butt, I wanted this story to be retold in our current era. But, its main fault is in "pacing". Errors in pacing are subjective, hence, hard to prove, but are none the less real. In the end, this means BORING.

They tried to introduce the "wog with the heart of gold", excellent acting there, but it meant a slowdown in the storytelling, back to BORING.

I was also peeved about "relieving General Gordon", while in the original tale, Khartoum had fallen ten years before. (Some of us DO take our history seriously.) Again, the fault is in pacing, hard to define, but there it is. Good editing probably would have saved this. It's kind of like hearing a joke where you have to hear the three false options that build up to the punchline. When poorly told, you are bored by options two and three, and impatient for the punchline.

I recently saw the 1939 version on Turner Classic Movies, and was EXTREMELY impressed with how fast the movie came to a close with tight crisp action. Also, INCREDIBLE on sight scenes in Egypt!

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Should be better than it is

Author: peter-503 from Adelaide, Australia
5 January 2004

I recently saw this film on DVD, but never saw the 1939 version, nor have I read the book.

My immediate reaction to this movie was, "what a waste of time."

I'm sure there was a good story here, somewhere, but this film doesn't really seem to tell that story. It seems disjointed and hard to follow at times, without giving much of an explanation for the actions of the characters, which I would have thought is necessary for this kind of film.

I've read other reviews that say an hour was cut out of the film, and I'd have to say that this seems the best explanation ... it just seems to be missing something.

I thought Heath Ledger was miscast (although I've never really liked any of his work), but Wes Bentley and Kate Hudson made up for that. Several people have criticised Kate Hudson's performance, but I thought she did quite well as a young woman in Victorian England. Djimoun Hounsou was great as the saviour/guardian angel type character and has a great screen presence.

I hope they release the full version one day.

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Probably watered down, but ends up affirming "empire"

Author: sugarmack from England
23 June 2003

I was looking forward to seeing this film, but was quite disappointed in the end. What starts out as "why should the queen of England care about a desert" (not an actual quote), ends up as "it turns out we didn't go to war for queen and country, we went there to be with our friends". Now, call me a stickler, but football seems a better way to bond than slaughtering those who fight to get the colonials out of their homeland.

The Four Feathers attempts to show that Africans aren't savages and that colonisation in the name of God was the slaughter of the innocent, unjustified and racist, but this message came across so strongly that a woman in my cinema applauded when the main character killed an African man whose entire family had been killed by the British. The one African who is portrayed as a hero is characterised as being an acception to the Muslims who, in fighting the British, were justifiably killed.

It shows that the British were out of their league when fighting the war against the Sudanese, but there is no line or action toward the end that shows the English soldiers being dissillusioned about fighting. I accept that to keep the authenticity the English army can't turn around and become pacifists because colonial wars are unjust, but you'd think the message that the Sudanese were fighting for homeland would come across to counter-balance the celebration of empire.

The scenery is absolutely beautiful and the contrasts drawn between Sudan and England are well done. The acting is good enough, but I feel sorry for Djimon Hounsou, who gets called on to appear in movies like Amistad, Gladiator and the Four Feathers whenever a "true black" is needed. He's a very good actor, so it's a shame that he is typecast, and also that roles for him appear so rarely.

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