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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The four feathers is the latest addition to a list of movies with the
same name and theme. The story: It is the high tide of the British
empire. Harry Feversham, a young officer in the queens army, asks and
gets dismissed from his regiment after he hears it will be sent to the
Sudan to fight against the Mahdi insurrection. His friends and fiancé
don't appreciate this behavior and each sent him a white feather as a
token of their disfavor. Harry then tries to redeem himself by going to
the Sudan and help his friends against the Mahdi.
I watched this movie to get a better understand of how movies are made. This movie certainly has amazing scenery that bring tears to your eyes by their beauty. The sharp sand color, the exotic people and desert landscapes, it all is impressive, as is the moist misty green england. But while the landscape, people and buildings are given much attention the story is told as if in afterthought and with a lot of movie errors. So many that even I noticed. Things in the movie just don't add up.
The first pivotal moment in the story is when Harry gets to hear that he is off to the Sudan. We seem him have an anguished talk with his friend Jack, then see him have bad dream and then next he gets himself dismissed in one go. It all happens in three minutes flat which seems enormous hurried compared to the ten minutes the movie takes to show the happy live. It is somehow too brief, too unexplained and too unbelievable that he can leave on the same day hey he tenders his resignation, without letting his friends know or him being thrown in the brig for cowardice?
You might expect that an important moment in the film is when his bethrotted sends him a feather(thus breaking off the engagement). But we are only told when someone comes visiting Harry: oh by the way who's the fourth feather? My former wife to be. The entire scene is also strange because we hear someone knock on the door, Harry opens the door and next the visitor is inside and they are talking about the feathers. Since the scene was dark I had the distinct feeling the visitor was still standing in the door opening.
Harry takes a trip to Egypt and then travels as part of a small caravan to the Sudan. The caravan brings hookers to the English army(we are told), but they aren't hookers(we are told later), but black Ethiopian princesses? And how come someone is bringing black hookers from Egypt to the Sudan? Should it not be the other way around? Anyway they kill the obnoxious caravan leader(who seems to be alone and unarmed?) knock out Harry who drags himself on a camel and rides to some place. After a while Harry drops to the desert-floor, the camel wanders off and in the next minute someone finds Harry! In addition we see in the background tracks in the sand. The desert seems quite a busy place.
Jack is chasing a Mahdi sniper, he carries a rifle, the next moment Jack has a pistol in his hand. The sniper is chased down a street and a minute later he is chased down the same street again.
Harry, disguised as a Mahdi, is charging amidst the Mahdi horde, first he carries a sword. Then he drops it when his horse is shot. Then he is on his horse again without sword, next he has the sword again. All the while he is at the head of the Mahdi horde even though he fell behind in a previous scene.
The English are attacked by a Mahdi horde. The Mahdi horde is killed to the last man with gun fire, but only the people fall, the horses are bullet proof. In fact the horses seem unimpressed by the fire.
A cavalry Mahdi horde attacks across the desert and we see the shot alternating between cavalry and infantry who arrive at the same time by the English forces.
We see in the background a Gatling gun twice, it is never used. But Gatling guns where never used by the English. English guns are limbered, the next scene unlimbered. The guns hold fire until the position is about to be overrun by the Mahdi. Rifle fire is used at the latest moment? English troops march in close order? Nope that is not normal.
The English cavalry is called tirailleurs? Tirailleurs are light infantry not cavalry. The cavalry chases the retreating Mahdi horde, then is ambushed by Mahdi infantry buried in the ground the Mahdi horde just moved over twice. Come on. English cavalry(now on camels?) movie into a village. They ride without guards. Of course such ineptitude must be punished with an ambush.
The entire movie has a feeling of careless sloppyness. Kapur seems to be in a hurry to get to the desert and it's fine scenery and the story is second to those nice views. Important moments are hardly played out, unimportant events are dragged out because they seem to offering nice pictures. This movie has a remarkable sloppy feel which is a shame really. A six for effort.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a great film this is. Not just only it's plot, but also from the
deeper meaning. The book of the film was written in the early 1900's
and back then it was a patriarchal society - the father dominates.
Notice how the Mother is absent from the whole movie. This means there
is no counter-balance to the father's way of life, namely no
feeling/emotion. The main character, Harry was living his father's life
instead of forging his own. Harry says in the movie "I only joined the
military because my father expected me to". Without the female
influence in his life Harry didn't have an emotion/feeling side. He
only knew how to relate to others based on past masculine experiences.
Was he really in love with Ethne or was he doing what was expected of
him? When Harry was instructed to go to war he resigned his commission
from the military, lost his fiancé's love and was disowned by his
father. He basically lost his identity. Harry then decided to go to
Sudan to be with his mates and ends up alone in the desert. Sounds
similar to Moses and his endless wandering through the desert. Moses
also thought he knew who he was until God got involved. Same thing with
Harry. Abou had a lot to say about God in the movie, like "God put me
in your way". Harry even says at some point in the movie "He would die
for God, if that is what is required of him." Is Abou a personification
of God? Individuality sometimes seems like a person is in conflict with
the status quo. Through most of the movie Harry did what was expected
for him, through his conditioning by the father, the military, his
mates and society. He put himself in harms way in order to fulfill an
obligation towards the meaning of each of the four feathers. Initially,
the white feather in Harry's culture meant 'coward', but in Abou's
culture it means the death of a person. Maybe not literal. Maybe the
death of whom a person thinks they are. The meaning of an object (like
the feather) is its "value" or in typology, its "feeling function".
Slowly, but surely the "value" of each of the feathers changes.
Back then; men generally had a real problem expressing their feelings/emotions. Most men still have a problem today. Many men express their feelings towards others by doing actions/tasks. How many times have you heard "The measure of a man is by what he does?" Isn't this what Jack says is the whole point of going to war to protect his mates to the left, the right, in front and behind.
Harry can't tell Jack how much he means to him. Military men did just not do it during that time in our history. So what does Harry do? He saves Jack from certain death, even after Harry finds out his ex-fiancé; Ethne now has feelings for Jack. Sounds like a pretty huge task and sacrifice to me. Just as big as the sacrifice of living a life based on what other people expect you to do rather than being your own person. Was Harry a coward? Deep inside himself he probably was. A coward to find out who he really was. Jack's blindness probably represents how Harry no longer sees or perceives things from his past, the way he use to.
Then comes the symbolic death at the Omdurman prison with Trench. Harry's total meaning of life (based on the past) is dead and now he can continue life with a renewed energy. He successfully negotiates his encounter with the "Father" as represented by the military, Abou and Idris, one of the prison leaders. When Harry kills Idris it is at this point that Harry defeats the negative aspect of the "Father" - meaning the expectations, obligations and perceptions instilled in him from his real father. Harry's experience in the camp was about the mouth food and poison. This probably represents how Harry no longer is controlled by what he was told in the past.
When Jack is back in England and still blind, it is a visit from Harry that makes Jack realizer it was Harry that saved him from death, back in Sudan. Even knowing this, Jack can't express to Harry what that means to him. He just walks over and sits next to Harry. Again with the actions.
I didn't know about this movie until yesterday. I was reading a biography on Merian C Cooper (the creator of the original King Kong movie). In his real life during World War 1 Merian was captured by Cossacks and placed in a prisoner of war camp. As time progressed he had amassed a large collection of books. The time eventually came for him to be transferred to another camp and Merian was told he could only take four of his books with him. "The Four Feathers" by AEW Mason was one of them. Incidentally, in order for Merian to survive the encounter with the Cossacks he lied about his identity. If they knew he was Merian Cooper they would have killed him on the spot. Merian also did a remake of this movie in 1929.
If you got something out of this movie you may want to look at whose life you are living.........or not. It's up to you, or do you get a white feather too.
The Four Feathers won't be considered a great film when history is
through with it, but the beauty and epic nature of the film should
still be admired. Much like many other films very similar to it (Master
and Commander, Last Samurai and Hero) the landscape and sets are the
major reasons to watch the film.
While the historical context in this film was weeded out by political correctness, one cannot deny the work and talent that was put into this film. Heath Ledger and Wes Bently were both good in this film, showing some potential as great actors in roles that were rather hard to fill. However, Kate Hudson once again showed she has no acting ability to speak of, causing me to convulse every time she vomited a word out her mouth.
While other remake of this film will be deemed better in regards to historical accuracy and possibly from an acting standpoint, but this film easily has them beat in the cinematography department.
I have mixed feelings about this movie and agree with those who found
something vital to be missing from the tale. It is watchable but
plodding, a long two hours, and I had a sense throughout of let's just
get on with it. It almost seemed as though the entire movie was in slow
motion. Despite some interesting desert scenes and dramatic battle
sequences, The Four Feathers is definitely no sweeping epic. In fact
sometimes I found the various Sudanese events really quite confusing to
Set in 1898, the film chronicles the tale of a young British officer named Harry, who resigns his post just before his regiment is being shipped off to war in the Sudan. His three friends (?) consider him a coward and to make their point, send him a package containing three feathers (one from each), a feather being the symbol of cowardice. A fourth feather is given to Harry by his fiancée, Ethne, herself the daughter of a deceased decorated officer, after Harry informs her of his decision to resign. Only his best friend, Jack, believes in him and sends no feather. To reclaim his honour, Harry secretly travels to the Sudan and finds his old regiment so that he can watch over his friends, even risking his life on several occasions in attempts to save them.
The film paints a portrait of colonial wars as not very noble. It sets the stage for the unfolding drama by depicting the mentality of the Victorian Era, where the British were considered to have their God given colonial rights, and the young Englishmen expected to willingly go off into battle abroad to defend Queen and country. Harry's father is a loyal officer himself, with strict expectations of appropriate military service for his son.
However, even given the cultural and military philosophy of that era, I had a great deal of difficulty with the entire premise behind this film and its concept of friendship. While I can understand Harry's fellow officers being disappointed with their friend in his choice to resign and even feeling betrayed, I cannot fathom why anyone who had done something so cruel as send a feather in this manner would ever be regarded as a friend. Thus I was a bit thunderstruck that Harry would actually go off undercover in the Sudan to defend these unworthy young fellow officers, unless it was simply to prove his lack of cowardice to himself personally. As the saying goes, with friends like this, who needs enemies? Even worse, the fiancée...though she does shortly thereafter repent of the feather. Nevertheless, a young man might think twice before marrying this lady. With such a questionable concept of loyalty and support, I don't consider her much of a prize for either Harry or Jack. Despite the prospect of living with Harry's disgrace, Ethne might at least not have been quite so heartless.
The friendship between Harry and Jack, who both share a love for Ethne, and the ensuing love triangle are well captured. Perhaps even better portrayed is Harry's relationship with his mysterious newfound Sudanese friend, a fellow Christian named Abou, who himself watches over Harry and seems to come to the rescue whenever the well intended young Englishman bungles affairs. The actors, Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, and Kate Hudson, are competent in their roles but the real star is probably Djimon Hounsou, who plays Harry's guardian angel, Abou.
The movie does capture the personal growth Harry experiences in the Sudan, as well as the transformation of his friends' cocky attitudes by their horrific battle experiences. It also shows that Harry genuinely does not lack courage. Rather, he simply had no desire to go off to a foreign land to kill or be killed for a cause of little meaning to him. The film clearly depicts its theme of loyalty to fellow comrades in battle, but still there's definitely something missing...
I have less than no idea why this film has been slated by so many
people - mainstream audiences and critics alike. When total amateurish
crap like WOLF CREEK can cut it at the box office and a genuine
contender for fine film-making like this is passed up - its a sad
indictment of today's intelligentsia.
Whilst virtually impossible to top the 1939 original, this version offers more than enough to stand on its own two feet. As a member of society I would rate Heath Ledger as a rung below Russell Crowe but on screen - like his NZ born counterpart, he delivers the goods. In this particular outing he is exceptional.
Dramatically on-track (OK the first half drags in places) with some cutting-edge action sequences, stunning cinematography and thunderingly good good music from James Horner and Co, what you have here is entertainment with a capital E. The last twenty seconds of the film are inspired.
Something for everyone in this mini-epic. It deserves far more recognition.
To add insult to injury, I bought this DVD from a bargain-basement table for just $5. Their loss - not mine!
"The Four Feathers", directed by Shekhar Kapur is the sixth film
version of the classic novel by A. E. W. Mason. The many reviews of
this film can be grouped into two prominent points of view. One half of
the reviewers rated the film based on the technical aspects (such as
how well this movie portrayed actual history, accuracy to the book and
how well it reenacted Mason's ideas). The other group reviewed this
film from simply an entertainment point of view and rated it on how
much they enjoyed it. The group that looked at the movie from a
technical point of view, disliked it. Those that ignored the technical
aspects seemed to be happily entertained.
From a technical point of view, I feel that Kate Hudson was an unfortunate choice of actress for this character. She didn't have the right personality and mannerisms to fit the role and seemed too "American" for the role of this English lady. Also I believe that the film did not spend enough time developing the characters. This made it hard for me to understand their decisions and empathize with their feelings.
I really enjoyed the settings in this film and the beauty of the shots. Although there were some lulls in the pace, the storyline kept a decent tempo. I had the feeling that some sections had too much of a melodramatic feel. The action sequences were quite exiting and the story itself was entertaining but did not have much depth.
I agree with the arguments made by both sides. It would have been nice if the characters had been more developed, if some of the scenes had been cut a bit shorter and, if possible, some of the melodrama removed. I was happy with how it was beautifully filmed.
Overall I enjoyed this film and I would recommend it to those who are looking for simple, unchallenging entertainment.
Whatever the merits of the script or a longer version of the film, by
the time they pared it down to the theatrical version the damage to the
story had been done. If you're looking for a movie with pretty actors
and pretty cinematography, "The Four Feathers" could be the film for
you. But if you're looking for a cohesive plot and compelling
characters, well, if they were present they've been left on the cutting
Not that the cast is to blame; the actors do a fine job in the time that's been left to them.
What remains certainly has an epic feel, as we wait and wait for the characters to reveal their core motivations. (...then he decided to do this... then he decided it would be better to do that... then she decided hey, I guess I may as well do the other...)
While promotional materials tend to make it seem like the protagonist has a plan all along, as the film plays out it appears more like a random quest for redemption. Which theoretically could make for an adequate story... if only the resolution were not so contrived.
I have seen the older versions, and to be honest they aren't better then this modern version. The two minus points this movie gets are the somewhat bad acting in some scenes. Ledger and Hudson are the reason for this. They act so weak at certain points that it made my mouth fall open. Come on... this movie is directed by the same director as Elizabeth. So that was a bit of a disappointment. A miss-cast I do not often forgive. But Bentley comes to save the day. He was very good in American Beauty and he made this movie more believable too. The story is still very good, it sticks good to the original. The action and special effects are a nice addition. Perphaps it is just because Iam 17 that I like this movie more then the older versions. But I have seen them and they aren't better. It is too bad that this movie is not well known around the world. Cause a life lesson is always good...
This is one of the best movies I have watched. We recently saw the 1939 version, and though I found the plot fascinating the movie was, in my opinion, very long-drawn out. So I was excited to find a new version in the DVD store. I must say the 2002 Four Feathers did not lack suspense or adventure. It is terribly spellbinding (will he truly survive??) and the ending is simply wonderful. It is not the stereo-type happy ending because it conveys a deep thread of the past, which I, as a realistic movie-watcher, appreciate. Also, I think the actors acted their characters exceptionally well. The whole set-up (costumes, landscapes, cultures) added to the feeling of really being there, experiencing the harsh desert and rainy northern coastal climates.
The plot is not bad, but the movie is poorly made, with no more than a series of disjointed scenes most of which defying common sense. While bravery is an important theme in this movie, most of the characters behave more recklessly and foolishly than bravely. For example, the lead character Harry volunteers to be captured by the Sudanese, apparently to "save" his captured friend. The problem is that he goes in with no plan of escape whatsoever. Of course, his supernatural guardian angel, the Sudanese warrior, helps Harry to escape -- a predictable plot. But could Harry have predicted that? The Sudanese warrior is depicted to be the most fearless and the most loyal character -- overshadowing brainless British lieutenants and leading characters. I give 2 out of 10. Not worth anybody's time.
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