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The Four Feathers Review

By Shawn McKenzie 09/23/2002

Sometimes there are movies that come out that seem to appeal to only the more hoity-toity critics.  They like the visual artistry and acting of a movie and ignore the fact that it will bore about 75% of the general movie-going audience.  Sometimes those movies go on to win Oscars they donít deserve.  The biggest criminal of this statement is 1995ís The English Patient.  For some reason, either spurned by movie-goers comments or maybe just out of pure dumb luck, a director of one of those boring movies will follow it with a pretty decent one (which will of course be hated by the hoity-toity critics.)  That is what the director of The English Patient, Anthony Minghella, did with 1999ís The Talented Mr. Ripley (which most regular people Iíve talked with liked, but every critic Iíve talked to hated.)  Director Shekhar Kapur has done the same thing now.  In 1998, he came out with one of the most boring movies ever to get a nomination for a Best Picture Oscar, Elizabeth.  He has corrected that mistake with his new movie, The Four Feathers.

 

The Four Feathers is the fifth big screen adaptation of the novel written by A.E.W. Mason.  It tells the story of Harry Faversham (Heath Ledger), a decorated officer in the British Army in 1884.  He is newly engaged to Ethne Eustace (Kate Hudson), a young woman of elegance whose father also served in the military.  His four best buds and fellow officers are William Trench (Michael Sheen), Tom Willoughby (Rupert Penry-Jones), Edward Castleton (Kris Marshall), and Jack Durrance (Wes Bentley), the last one being his closest friend.  Life couldnít be better for Harry, until one day news arrives that rebels have attacked a British outpost in Khartoum.  The army needs reserves to fight the rebels, so his division is set to be sent out to war in the Sudan within a week.  This doesnít sit well with Harry, and resigns from his position, giving the excuse that he just got engaged, but in reality is just scared to go to war.  His friends and fiancť canít believe that he is a coward, so they send him the symbol for cowardice, a white feather (all except Jack, who doesnít believe he is a coward.)  As time passes, Harry gets haggard-looking, and begins to look like one of the rebels, which is perfect, because he hears of plans to destroy the army.  Not wanting his friends to get killed, he teams with a native warrior named Abou Fatma (Djimon Hounsou), who had saved him from dying in the desert and now felt a need to protect him, to save his friends and possibly win back the heart of Ethne.

 

This movie was far more fascinating than Elizabeth.  It kept my interest, had beautiful scenery, and decent acting.  I was not bored by this movie.  I thought the battle scenes were impressive.  Hounsou stood out as the very tall warrior who helps Harry despite the fact that he knew the British army would not take to him.

 

It was not without its faults.  There were several logic problems.  Why did Fatma feel a need to protect him?  Why would Harry care about trying to win back Ethneís heart when she gave him a feather?  Besides the logic head-scratchers, the movie might actually bore a younger audience, though not nearly as bad as Elizabeth.  It has many slow moving parts in it that might make them nod off occasionally.

 

Iím hoping in both Minghellaís and Kapurís cases, the only way is up.  They could just as easily fall back to their boring storytelling ways, but I doubt it.  The Four Feathers isnít the most exciting movie to come out this year, but it isnít the most boring one either.  Keep it up Kapur!

Get the A.E.W. Mason novel that the movie is based on:

Get the original score soundtrack by James Horner that includes the vocal talents of world music star Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan:

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