The Four Feathers
A. E. W. Mason’s 1901 novel, set in Victorian England at the height of the British Empire, was first filmed in 1939, then again for TV in 1978. Heath Ledger stars in this current remake as young, handsome British Lt. Harry Faversham, newly engaged to Ethne Eustace (Kate Hudson). When Harry, a reluctant soldier, hears his regiment will be sent to fight militant Arabs in the Sudanese desert, he resigns from the army. His act disgraces his military father and shocks both his friends and Ethne. Three of his comrades and Ethne give Harry four white feathers, symbolizing cowardice. To redeem himself, Harry finds his own way to Sudan, determined to save lives of his best friend Lt. Jack Durrance (Wes Bentley) and fellow soldiers. Disguising himself as a desert Bedouin, Harry’s quest for redemption puts him in far greater danger than he ever imagined. Many intense battle scenes could overpower the poignant love story and gorgeous photography for some, but this epic story of loyalty and discovering courage will inspire many.
The British soldiers are portrayed as arrogant imperialists and the patriotic young officers as hungry for battle when they learn of the attack on the British fortress at Khartoum. But in their British pride, the soldiers know little about the desert tribes rebelling against British aggression. Bloody, gruesome battles feature sword hacks and bayonet stabs. Bodies of massacred armies, dead bodies thrown in open pits, wild dogs chewing on dying and dead soldiers, cadavers stripped of their uniforms and worn by the enemy make this movie seem quite violent, but despite the intensity, much of the action is relatively bloodless. Naive Harry finds himself alone and lost in the desert. Dying of thirst, he thrusts his knife into his camel’s neck and tries to drink the gushing blood. Abou Fatma (Djimon Housou), a black giant of a man both physically and spiritually, appears out of nowhere to become Harry’s savior, stating that God put Harry in his way. Along with prayers for favor over their enemy, God’s providence of help and safety underlies several scenes. Reflecting the Victorian setting, THE FOUR FEATHERS has little objectionable language or sexual content, although some bare male rears are briefly seen in a barracks shower. A brief, obscured scene of a Sudanese prostitute strongly implies sex with another prisoner takes place in a dark cave. The horrendous battles and graphic beatings seem more intense than necessary but without the brief sexual content and more gruesome scenes of warfare, this adaptation of a historical novel could be recommended for older teens and adults.