The Four Feathers (2002 film)
|The Four Feathers|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Shekhar Kapur|
|Produced by||Paul Feldsher
Stanley R. Jaffe
|Screenplay by||Mark Pellington
Bruce Joel Rubin
Risa Bramon Garcia
|Based on||The Four Feathers
by A.E.W. Mason
|Music by||James Horner|
|Editing by||Andrew Mondshein
|Studio||Blinding Edge Pictures
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures
|Running time||131 minutes
125 minutes (TIFF)
The Four Feathers is a 2002 action drama film directed by Shekhar Kapur, starring Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, Djimon Hounsou and Kate Hudson. Set during the British Army's Gordon Relief Expedition (late 1884 to early 1885) in Sudan, it tells the story of a young man accused of cowardice.
This film, with altered plot events, is the latest in a long line of cinematic adaptations of the 1902 novel The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason. Other versions of the story have been set in the 1890s, with different battle events.
Harry Faversham (Heath Ledger), a young British officer completing his training, celebrates his engagement to the beautiful young Ethne (Kate Hudson), in a lavish ball with his fellow officers and his father in attendance. When the regimental Colonel (James Cosmo) announces that the regiment is being dispatched to Egyptian-ruled Sudan to rescue the British General Charles "Chinese" Gordon (who is being besieged in Khartoum by Islamic rebels of the Mahdi), young Faversham has serious ethical reservations about the war, and resigns his commission. Shocked by his son's actions, Harry's father (Tim Pigott-Smith) disowns him. Perceiving his resignation as cowardice, three of his friends and his fiancée each give him a white feather, the symbol of cowardice. Ethne breaks off their engagement.
Tormented, isolated and alone in London, Harry learns that his best friend Jack (Wes Bentley) and his former regiment have come under brutal attack by rebels. Undertaking the perilous journey into the Sudan alone, he strikes up an alliance with Abou Fatma (Djimon Hounsou), a wise mercenary warrior. Harry disguises himself as an Arab. Harry and Abou Fatma follow a group of army workers he believes to be Mahdi spies, and reach the garrison of Abu-Klea (near Khartoum), which they realise on entry has been overrun. Before they can leave, the gates are closed. Harry is taken roughly aside; he begs Abou Fatma to warn his friends that their destination is under siege and an attack is likely. Instead of being discovered, Harry is given a red British army jacket.
Meanwhile the regiment stopped its march to bury a group of British dead killed by the Mahdi. Abou Fatma is captured by Egyptian soldiers; believing he is an enemy scout, they bring him before the British officers (Faversham's friends). He tells the British that he has been sent by a British officer, referring to Faversham, in order to warn them of the Mahdi's attack. He says that Muslims always bury their dead and that of the enemy, but that these bodies have been left to keep the British occupied. Faversham's comrades are worried, but ultimately they disregard Abou Fatma's warnings and he is flogged as a suspected spy.
The British and Egyptian troops are not prepared for battle. The Mahdi rebels attack with spearmen, riflemen and cavalry, while the British forces form a defensive square. Firing volley after volley, the British repel the initial Mahdi assault just as they spot British cavalry reinforcements in their distinctive red uniforms. A force of skirmishers is sent to pursue the retreating Sudanese, but they are ambushed by Mahdi rebels and forced to fight on foot. Soon the British discover that the cavalry whom they thought were reinforcements are Sudanese disguised in British uniforms. Among them is Faversham. The British square hastily reorganises and fires a few volleys, in the process killing several skirmishers who have not yet returned to the square (including Harry's friend Edward Castleton (Kris Marshall), who had given him a feather.) The British issue an order for retreat.
Harry found Jack during the battle and protected him after he was blinded. Harry finds tender letters from Ethne to Jack, but nonetheless cares for his friend without identifying himself. Never knowing his rescuer, Jack is transported to England. He asks Ethne to marry him, but she does not answer. First she discusses it with Harry's father.
Tom, another officer tells Jack that Harry had visited him in the Sudan and told him he had sent Abou to warn the British, and was bitter that his friends had not heeded him. Harry asked Tom for money and explained that he believes Trench lives on in the notorious Mahdi prison of Omdurman,, saying he believed Trench was still being held in the Mahdi prison, and he was determined to rescue him. Abou advised Harry against this venture, but he goes anyway.
Later Abou rescues Harry and Trench by giving them a 'poison' to fake their deaths. A suspicious guard follows the removal of the bodies, along with three other guards. Harry and Abou kill the four. Abou returns to the desert, and Harry escorts Trench back to Britain. Harry is acknowledged by his father and Ethne reclaims her feather, as Harry has so proved his bravery. She has become engaged to Jack.
Jack learns that Harry was his rescuer when he happens to touch his face; he releases Ethne from their engagement. After a ceremony of remembrance, Harry and Ethne hold hands and are engaged again.
- Heath Ledger as Harry Faversham
- Wes Bentley as Jack Durrance
- Djimon Hounsou as Abou Fatma
- Kate Hudson as Ethne Eustace
- Rupert Penry-Jones as Tom Willoughby
- Kris Marshall as Edward Castleton
- Michael Sheen as William Trench
- Alex Jennings as Colonel Hamilton
- James Cosmo as Colonel Sutch
- Angela Douglas as Aunt Mary
- Tim Pigott-Smith as General Feversham
- Lucy Gordon as Isabelle
- James Hillier as Drunken Corporal
The film opened in North American cinemas on 30 September 2002 and grossed $6,857,879 in its opening weekend, making number 5 at the US box office. The Four Feathers ended up making $29.8 million worldwide, failing to bring back its $35 million budget.
In 2003, it was issued as a Special Collector's edition on DVD. ISBN 0-792-18961-2
The film was poorly received by critics; Rotten Tomatoes has the films aggregate rating at 41% positive, earning it a "rotten" rating.
It was criticized for lack of development of characters and ambivalence about its point of view, somewhat revisionist as to the imperial exercise. It had historical inaccuracies: set in 1885, it shows the British wearing red coats in the desert, although these had been changed for khaki uniforms shortly beforehand. It features the Battle of Abu Klea, 17 January 1885, fought by the Desert Column, and including the Camel Corps[disambiguation needed] dressed in grey jackets and khaki trousers.
- The Four Feathers book (1906)
- The Four Feathers - 1939
- Storm Over the Nile - 1955
- Khartoum, a 1966 film dealing with the events leading up to General Gordon's death
- Highclere Castle
- Official website
- The Four Feathers at the Internet Movie Database
- The Four Feathers at the TCM Movie Database
- The Four Feathers at allmovie
- The Four Feathers at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Four Feathers at Box Office Mojo