Main cast: Heath Ledger (Harry Faversham), Wes Bentley (Lt Jack Durrance), Kate Hudson (Ethne Eustace), Djimon Hounsou (Abou Fatma), Michael Sheen (William Trench), Alek Wek (Denka), Kris Marshall (Castleton), Rupert Penry-Jones (Thomas Willoughby)
Director: Shekhar Kapur
This movie is hilariously awful. Whose idea is it to cast the singularly wooden Heath Ledger, the really awful at accent Kate Hudson, and the unconvincing Wes Bentley in one movie together? Bentley is decent - his only fault is that even with a full beard, he still looks too young to play an officer in the army. But Hudson and Ledger have no such excuses other than full lobotomy to justify their persona-very grating-non grata.
This is a story about how being a hippie dipstick can make you a man of glory. Our hero Harry Faversham loses his girl Ethne when he resigns from the army just as they are about to crash those scary warriors of Sudan. It's 1875. He gets four white feathers - one thoughtfully from now-no-more-his-girlie Ethne - the sign of cowardice. Shamed, he decides to run to Sudan, pretend to be an Arab, and help his buddies secretly. So this is what it takes to be honorable again: lie and deceive instead of fighting like a real man. And how sad that a man who refuses to fight because he feels that it is wrong just has to end up compromising his principles to restore his honor. Did Dubby commission this movie as a campaign to promote his Down With Saddam cause?
Most offensive is Djimon Hounsou's Abou, a deus-ex-machina plot device guy who is Good because he helps the British. I have no idea why he sides the British, just as I have no idea why he is okay with getting whipped by the people he supports just because Harry has no balls to do the dirty job himself. The contradiction of a man who betrays his own people being portrayed as "good" in a story where the moral is that you must stand and fight with your countrymen to death - for honor! - is lost on the makers of this movie. But then again, maybe one could argue that Abou, playing the insulting Minority Darkie sidekick, has no right to expect logic in his characterization from this blatantly unfocused, contradictory movie.
Added fun include the bewildering portrayal of British army officers as idiots and bigots. Um, Kapur, aren't those supposed to be the good guys? Also, Ledger has only one expression for the entire movie, so his character's soul searching in Sudan takes on the urgency of a field trip to the Yellowstone Park. Kate Hudson, eh, the less said of her atrocious accent and wooden spoon acting the better.
Only Wes Bentley, Rupert Penry-Jones, and Kris Marshall acquit themselves well. Although I beg Bentley to not grow that beard again, please. His head always seems too big for his very skinny frame, and that beard only intensify his dark hair and bright eyes, making his head look even bigger than it is. And the young man looks too young to play his role.
Ultimately, nobody - even the filmmakers - seem to know what this version of The Four Feathers is supposed to be. Okay, the book is a silly outdated adventure story for silly kids, but these people seem to be under the assumption that it's a Great Work of Classic. By trying to give the movie Deep Meanings and Deep Thoughts - deep elements the story just does not have in the first place - they end up with this laughably phony and cheesy showcase of bad acting, contradictory expositions, and blatant canonization of Republican military principles. The Four Feathers is three sheets to the wind when it comes to coherence and entertainment value.
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