A review of “The Four
Feathers” by Jeanne Aufmuth
Rating: PG-13 (but should
be R) for extensive violence and adult situations
hours, 3 minutes
recall the compelling 1939 version of “The Four Feathers” starring John
Clements and Ralph Richardson. That’s a good
thing, as the modern-day version suffers by comparison.
problems punctuate this battle-scarred romantic epic. Heath Ledger (yum) is Harry Faversham, a
general’s son for whom a British Army commission is a fait-accompli. Harry is engaged to Ethne Eustace (Kate
Hudson), the ethereal girl-next-door.
When an army of Sudanese rebels attacks a colonial British fortress in Khartoum, Harry’s
regiment is posted to North Africa for some
real-life combat. Overwhelmed by doubt,
Harry succumbs to cowardice and resigns his commission. Ethne is horrified at Harry’s loss of dignity,
as are three of Harry’s closest colleagues who cannot condone his actions. Their
cruel condemnation is relayed by the abrupt delivery of four white feathers –
the feathers of cowardice.
say, Harry’s best friend Lt. Jack Durrance (Wes Bentley) stands by his
man. He knows (in his heart) that Harry
is not a coward. Deep in the Sudan, Jack
commands the English troops with something akin to valor, and finds himself a
national hero. At the same time, Harry
sets out for darkest Africa to prove
that he himself is a hero, and more of a man than his downy white shame
actions in the Sudan are
puzzling, less heroic than they are foolish. He lies low, masking his identity until
the optimum moment to prove himself a champion.
Transcending uncertainty by rushing out to save the cavalry, Harry’s
mission seems abnormally focused on the physical and emotional liberation of
the original quartet of feather senders.
Pass the bitter pills of salvation!
redemption, undying loyalty, and indomitable spirit are all accounted for, from
the battlefield to the prosperous drawing rooms of English aristocracy. The
battle scenes are beautifully wrought, and horribly, sickeningly graphic. (This
is an R-rating that managed to fly under the MPAA sex-and-language radar). One
can’t help but be impressed with the look of the film, which is lush and grand
in scope. The pacing, however, is desperately
and Ledger don’t generate enough electricity to light up the first two acts,
but they manage rev it up in the home stretch.
Watching Ledger mount his thundering steed at reckless speed (without a
stunt double) is worth the price of admission.