The Four Feathers (2002) Shekhar Kapur

Production Budget: $80 million
Worldwide Gross: about $20 million

The Four Feathers is based on a book of the same name which was printed in 1902.  Harry (Heath Ledger) resigns from the army when he discovers they are shipping out to fight rebels in the Sudan.  Harry cites personal reasons but his friends believe he is a coward.  The friends give Harry three feathers which are a public mark of cowardice.  Harry’s fiancée Ethne (Kate Hudson.  Ugh.) also pulls his man card and gives him another feather.  Harry decides to go to the Sudan covertly and help his comrades who fall into trouble.  At the same time, one of Harry’s comrades Jack (Wes Bentley) tries to court the young Ethne.  Oh, and because we need an African American actor to play Harry’s companion in Sudan, we have Djimon Hounsou.  Hounsou is great, but its a little ridiculous he is the only actor that can play “African” roles in the eyes of studios.

The movie was originally intended for three hours but somehow got in trouble for its anti-imperialist message directly after 9/11.  Studios pressured Kapur (Elizabeth) to cut the movie down to an unbelievable 2 hour run time.  Sometimes real life events have a nasty knack of f*cking up perfectly good movies.  Funding for advertising was also cut which meant not many people knew about it.  The movie got alright reviews but was a bomb at the box office.

Is it any good?  I hate to dismiss this movie as simply good, but I have to.  I hate to say it because simply being “good” isn’t enough.  There are a million movies out there that are just “good” you could be watching.  Its better to be really awesome or really sh*tty than to be better than average.  I liked Four Feathers for what it was and I might actually watch it again down the road.  However its nothing to really write home about.  I guess if I had to cite a reason for why it isn’t great, I guess its because we aren’t really immersed in the movie world.  It kind of tries to go into Lawrence of Arabia territory but the editing is so quick that we never linger on the landscape or anything for any given period of time.  We are grabbed by the arm and led quickly from plot point to plot point.  Its like we are getting the Cliffs Notes version of the story “Oh, I’m a coward, have some feathers, crap now I have to be a man, cut to Sudan, my friends are in trouble, I save one (that’s one feather), another gets in trouble, I’ll save him…”  Four Feathers should be an epic portrayal of a man’s several year journey to redeem himself in the eyes of his friends.  Instead it seems like Ledger spend his summer vacation getting his friends out of some scrapes.

The acting, especially from Ledger and Bentley are extremely good.  Kate Hudson, well, she didn’t make me want to punch my tv so I guess that’s commendable.  The cast is also rounded out by many veteran Brit actors who play there roles like they’ve done it a million times before.  The music and the cinematography are all top notch.  I just think the editing killed this movie and unfortunately I don’t think the 3 hour version is available to compare.  Some may be disappointed its not a swashbuckling adventure and I will just say the story was never anything like that.  That doesn’t mean the story isn’t exciting and intense at times.  So as I said, overall the movie is just good.  I enjoyed it and would watch it again especially for the performances.  But could I necessarily recommend it to everyone else.  Ehhhh, not so much.


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