91 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Appreciate this film for what it is supposed to be!
I am very surprised at the number of negative comments about this film. My wife and I both loved it. We found the action scenes and cinematography to both be exceptional. I agree with the criticism that the retreat of the British troops to "form a square" seemed a bit out of kilter in that they seemed almost hopelessly surrounded but somehow escaped. To us, however,...
Published on January 13, 2003 by Don Graeter
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Confused Remake of Original
It would seem that the themes of Four Feathers, cowardice, courage, honor, etc. can be re-examined by each film making generation. What else can explain so many versions of this oft-made story. The original A.E.W. Mason novel is a slow Victorian read, and no film has yet to do it true honor scene for scene. This current version, while impressive visually, is spoiled by...
Published on April 2, 2003 by Roger Kennedy
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91 of 99 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Appreciate this film for what it is supposed to be!,
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I am very surprised at the number of negative comments about this film. My wife and I both loved it. We found the action scenes and cinematography to both be exceptional. I agree with the criticism that the retreat of the British troops to "form a square" seemed a bit out of kilter in that they seemed almost hopelessly surrounded but somehow escaped. To us, however, this was a small blemish on very believeable action sequences and a very entertaining story. I have seen the 1939 version several times and enjoyed it, but this was much better to me.
Those who seem to have a problem with this movie seem to have standards few historical action films would meet. Perhaps they just don't enjoy the genre. I happen to enjoy films such as the Daniel Day-Lewis version of The Last of the Mohicans, The Patriot, etc. If you enjoy those type films, you will almost certainly enjoy this one. If you don't, you won't. This film is not totally true to the book. So what? It's a darn good movie! Just relax, be transported back to the heyday of the British Empire and enjoy a good historical action film with a love story and beautiful action scenes and suspense.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a film,
This review is from: The Four Feathers (Full Screen Collector's Edition) (DVD)
As a novel, the Four Feathers is an extremely introspective and psychological work, which obviously poses significant problems for whoever intends to adapt it. In reality there is very little action in the book, apart from a very quick knife fight, which again poses problems. I would hazard a guess that the Four Feathers' reputation as a "Victorian epic" is based more in the earlier renditions of the film, rather than in the novel. This new version departs from the novel in a number of ways, but I would argue that this is its' strength, rather than weakness. The filmmakers obviously saw potential in the setting and basic plot of the story, but decided to take it in their own direction. Some would call that blasphemy, but a film is not a book. Maybe the filmmakers looked at the Four Feathers, and didn't WANT to make a movie that was as close to the book as humanly possible. It's their prerogative- because they aren't rewriting the novel-they're making the movie.
Adapting a novel into a film is always tricky, especially when the novel was written a century ago. A lot can change in a hundred years. Still, enough can remain the same, that many fans of the original will nail you to the wall for every inaccuracy and alteration. In the case of "the Four Feathers" there are so many ways you can criticize the new film, that it's almost laughable. Read one or two of the negative reviews below, and you'll see complaints about plot holes, deflated characters, anti-imperialism, and failing to pay homage to the original 4 or 3 or 11 other versions that exist(I've lost count, because I obviously don't care). I'm not going to talk about what "the Four Feathers" isn't, but rather what it IS.
It is a film with breathtaking cinematography, which displays the haunting and forbidding landscape of the Sudan, from the rolling dunes of sand, to the blasted wastes. The film offers a look at a cross section of Imperialism, through the eyes of those affected- from the soldiers enforcing the rule to the people under it. I would disagree with those reviewers who see it as a dig against British tradition alone, but more against the traditions and beliefs that fuelled and supported Imperialism as a whole.
In closing, I'd just like to mention one of the many departures from the book that I felt strengthened the film, was the portrayal of Harry's reasons for refusing to fight. In the book, Harry has already done a tour of duty in India, and it is clear his reasons for refusing, is the thought of leaving Ethne. In the film, he makes some comment about "What does the Queen have to do with Africa" but in reality, that is a ploy, I feel. I think that Harry really is a coward, at least in the Victorian sense. He does not want to fight in war, because he is afraid. But when it comes down to protecting and proving himself to his friends, Harry is able to overcome his fears. Not bad. Not bad at all.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Cowardice to Redemption.,
This review is from: Four Feathers [VHS] (VHS Tape)
When I was at my early teens, every Wednesday's afternoon, I and my school mates had an unavoidable rendezvous: going to the Theater to see "Action Matinee Show".
During those unforgettable sessions I enjoyed "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" (1935), "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (1936), "Gunga Din" (1939) and "The Four Feathers" (1939) amongst other action classics.
The story that impresses me more was that of the "coward" Harry Feversham, possibly because at that age kids are unsure of themselves and are afraid to be afraid.
I've never seen the original version again. So when this remake was announced I was eager to see it.
Notwithstanding all the negative reviews, I really enjoy this movie.
Why? Well here are my points:
First there stands the story. Young Harry entering the military under family tradition pressure. He enjoys comradeship but he is not willing to go to war and shed blood (his or others).
When his regiment goes to war he resigned his commission. He is stigmatized by his friends and fiancée as coward and four white feathers sent to him.
His engagement is broken, his father despises him. In other words his world explodes. When he most needed a kind word or a loving caress he founds rejection.
It comes to my mind the scene from "Band of Brothers" when a private is suffering form hysterical blindness and a well meaning word from his Lieutenant works the miracle: he regain sight and courage.
Harry overcomes his fears and rushes to Sudan to help his friends. From this point onwards, adventures flow unceasingly.
Second the very good photography in charge of the experienced and always effective Robert Richardson, who has authored amongst other: "Platoon" (1986), "The Horse Whisperer" (1998) and after the present movie "Kid Bill" 1 & 2 (2003-4). All his skill is shown in the battle scenes.
Third, actors & actress perform solidly: Heath Ledger as Harry Feversham, Djimon Hounsou outstanding as Abou Fatma, Kate Hudson as the fiancé and the rest of the cast in supporting roles.
Lastly, director Shekar Kapur has done a correct job. Unfortunately general public was expecting more from him due to his very successful previous film "Elizabeth", but honestly he can't be blamed of incompetence, just of not being outstanding always.
It is a very good film for action, adventure or past wars fan. If you enter any of these categories you'll not be disappointed!
Reviewed by Max Yofre.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imperfect but beautiful in it's own right, this film is a valuable interpretation. Enjoy!,
The Four Feathers is a period piece on English honor during their imperial conquests of the late 1800s. The story line itself is simple. Heath Ledger plays Harry, a soldier who resigns his commission to avoid going to war. Wes Bentley is Jack, his loyal best friend, secretly in love with his fiance', Ethne, played by Kate Hudson. When his friends and fiance' question his courage, he travels alone to the battlefield to regain his honor and save his friends.
But while the story is simple, the execution is monumental. Wes Bentley captures the angst and inner turmoil of doing everything right and still having his friend have the one thing he wants: Ethne's love. Djimon Hounsou also shines as the Sudanese nomad who finds Harry in the desert and befriends him. Kate Hudson and Heath Ledger's acting is good but their full ranges are not utilized here.
This is a really good film that is a visual jewel. This film has been judged harshly by many, and unjustly compared to the 1939 version, in my opinion.
Of the 1939 version of this film, Richard T. Jameson has said "A.E.W. Mason's novel of stiff-upper-lip honor and valor had already been filmed three times (and at least that many remakes have followed, superfluously). This is the only version that matters." Mr. Jameson, I beg to differ.
The Shekhar Kapur version of this movie matters for several reasons. Robert Richardson's cinematography is indeed masterful, with all the hughs and highlights of the desert shining. He has elicited comparisons to Lawrence of Arabia for obvious reasons. But don't forget Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Sheltering Sky." This camera work is really that good that it deserves to be compared to that class of film.
At times the story may seem to lack flow. I believe this was intentionally directed into the film by Shekhar Kapur. The slow uncertainty of the story acts to highlight Harry's indecision. Kate Hudson slowly realizes she is wrong, then slowly accepts her blessings upon his return. Harry slowly realizes his mistake and eventually goes to Sudan. Even Harry's movement across the desert is slow. While he quickly makes up his mind, the pace of the movie outlines the slow arduous task Harry faces in rebuilding the pieces of his life. I believe that Shekhar Kapur has made a valuable film which displays the English fixation with honor and pride and their slow pace to change.
I could see somebody giving this movie a 3 but no lower than that. Overall, I think this is a beautiful film that deserves to be purchased and studied.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Confused Remake of Original,
It would seem that the themes of Four Feathers, cowardice, courage, honor, etc. can be re-examined by each film making generation. What else can explain so many versions of this oft-made story. The original A.E.W. Mason novel is a slow Victorian read, and no film has yet to do it true honor scene for scene. This current version, while impressive visually, is spoiled by the politically correct overtones of its producer. Should we be surprised that an East Indian director would become mired in his own confused feelings about the British empire. The result is history re-written to make this individual feel better about himself.
The numerous historical inaccuracies of this film start right off with the Royal Cumbrians. No such regiment existed in the British army! This is not so bad because the older 1939 version also depicted a make-believe regiment - The Royal North Surreys. They do have a better sounding title though! If this were the only problem with the film it would be fine. But the producer proceeds to invent a fortress of Abu Klea which the British never had and thus was never taken. Then he further distorts matters by totally corrupting the major battle scene of the film - the battle of Abu Klea. This battle was fought in 1885 when the British were trying to relieve General Gordon at Khartoum. The British Camel Corps was involved, not an Anglo-Egyptian infantry force that is shown here. Again, we could survive these minor details. The major fallacy here is that it is shown as a British defeat. Which it was not. True, the Mahdists did break the defending British square briefly, and Kipling even wrote a poem to salute that event, but the film does not show that the square was reformed and all the Dervish that managed to break inside were either killed or driven out. The Mahdist cavalry charging with red jackets is also pure fiction. The British in fact defeated the Mahdist hordes, inflicting over a thousand casualties for less than a hundred lost themselves. The British were also no longer wearing red jackets by this time as well, but we have to see those red coats in order to vilify the evil British!
The battle depicted here is well done, but factually wrong and a distortion of history. What do you expect from an Indian director who is trying to get revenge on the British empire! The shame of movies like this is that they seduce the viewer into thinking this is all factual content. Many films today have become not-so-subtle vehicles for revisionist history. Most movie directors are pundits for the politically correct crowd of Hollywood.
Movies like this can be enjoyed for their often fine production value, but should be balanced by reading the actual histoy of the events they portray. To do otherwise is to fall victem to the propaganda they preach here. Balance this film with the original 1939 classic directed by the Korda brothers and the fine 1970 film Khartoum with Lawrence Olivier giving a chilling performance as the murderous Mahdi - a fanatic of Islam which would look very familar to us today.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Politically Incorrect,
This remake of a classic film is an abomination. Supposedly, the
thrust of the changes was to remove "racist elements." I have watched the original many times, and I don't see any racist elements, unless you consider the depiction of Africans kicking the ... out of the British Army to be racist. In the remake, a mysterious black bodybuilder guides Harry Faversham step by step through his odyssey. The Ralph Richardson character is reduced to a screaming idiot. Please, watch the original and throw this one in the roundfile.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Oh dear! I bought this on the back of Kapur's fabulous "Elizabeth" which, although it also presented a revisionist view of history, was well-acted, well-scripted and fun to watch. This is a "politically-correct" version of the story: the hero is not the white, Anglo-Saxon protestant Harry Faversham (as in the book) but the black Muslim who finds him in the desert (not in the book) who saves Harry on a monotonously regular basis. The film fails on all levels: the accents are dodgy (Heath Ledger and Wes Bentley fail to convince), there is no real explanation of Harry's initial cowardice, and real men don't blub (at least, not in the Victorian era): Harry blubs a lot. Kate Hudson looks pretty but is not a well-rounded character: it is difficult to see why all the young men fall for her, still less explicable is her complete volte-face in her view of war and Harry's "cowardice". One moment she gives him a white feather, the next she is into bouts of "why didn't I stand by him" self-flagellation. Harry's father also - suddenly and inexplicably - switches from military martinet to cuddly daddy. The film is bitty and unsatisfying: it is, however, beautifully shot. That alone, however, does not justify buying the DVD or even (to be brutally frank) two hours of your time - not even on a wet Sunday afternoon.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Four Feathers-Ledger Impresses,
A Kid's Review
Unfortunately I had missed out on a chance to see this film in theatres, and I really wanted to. So, I got the DVD just when it came out (February 18), and watched it immeadiately. After viewing the film, I was very pleased, I ennjoyed this handsome and wonderfully acted film, from Director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth). Heath Ledger delivers a very naunced and fine perfomrnace as Harry, a young soldier who wishes to resign from his commision after finding out he will have to fight and go to war. Kate Hudson plays his fiancee, Ethne and Wes Bentley plays his best and loyal friend.
The film's plot is very simple and straightfoward, the intense and gripping battle sequences are nothing short of miraculous, specifically the impressive square formation and of course the acting as I said earlier is spectacular. The film, sadly did not perform greatly at the box-office, and performed at a mediocre level. Heath Ledger, should definetly deserve recognition for his performance as a man in search self-discovery, Harry Feversham. Ledger, is given four feathers which
are a sign of cowardice. He goes to the Sudan to help his friends against the Madhi, when they attack a British fortress. The film takes on a breath taking adventure and journey, the original version based on A.E.W. Mason's novel of the exact name was made in 1939, that film was of course very good. This film does give justice to the other film, and I think is simply amazing! Though the ending seemed to be sort of redundant, as a coward who becomes a hero and just saves the day. I did like the film, there was also beautiful cinematography, too bad this didn't get an oscar nod for that. Heath, Kate, Wes and Djimon Honsou who is excellent by the way do a great job in this movie! I would highly recommend this movie, I bought without seeing it and enjoyed so much! Own it on video and DVD, February 18, 2003.
43 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Harry of the Sudan,
Shekhar Kapur's "Elizabeth" was a marvel: incisive, ultra-dramatic, personal, romantic, intimate yet realized on a grand, epic scale. So it was with a great amount of expectation that I approached Kapur's new film, "The Four Feathers."
"The Four Feathers tells the story of one Leftenant Harry Haversham who, upon learning that his regiment is going to fight a war in Sudan, resigns his commission. In 1880 England this is an extreme act of Cowardice and a white feather is the physical manifestation of this cowardice. He is sent four: three from his fellow soldiers and one from Ethne Eustace (Kate Hudson), his fiancé.
The very weak link in this film is Harry's reason for resigning: "I am scared," he says. But not too scared to take it upon himself to go to the Sudan and pose as a Muslim warrior to protect his friends; one in particular, his best friend Jack (Wes Bentley). Huh?
Kapur has directed this film with a firm grasp of all the physical elements: the physical production is flawless and the desert has not looked this beautiful since "Lawrence of Arabia."
The acting is first rate with Heath Ledger, Kate Hudson (a big departure from her role in "Almost Famous"), Wes Bentley and Djimon Hounsou all very effective.
The is a film told on a grand scale with sweeping panoramas, huge, bloody, violent battle scenes and thousands of extras milling about. What it lacks is a personal point of view that would elevate all the physical elements into something that would touch us emotionally: "Four Feather's" is like a big, beautifully wrapped gift with nothing inside. It's emotionally empty and tragically vacant.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but can't beat Richardson (chick flick),
I have never cared for Heath Ledger as an actor. He failed to impress me in THE PATRIOT and something about him just doesn't hit me right. He however with the help on an excellent supporting cast makes passable work of THE FOUR FEATHERS.
Unlike previous versions of the film the battles are not the star here. This is a shame in one respect as Kapur dos a spectauclar job with the battle scene. I think he would have done a grand job with a more fighting.
This movie gives dimension to the characters both friend and foe, from the Vicar, to the jailer, (who has very few lines but is impressive)on down. These characters make the movie breathe. About the only character without depth is Kate Hudson, considering the screen time she gets I would have expected more.
The war against the Madi itself is quite interesting and would be worth a full movie itself, ... To its credit it doesn't propose sainthood for either side, but shows war as a gritty dirty business. The picture gives no hint of the final result of the war. The battle of Omdurman (Where a young Churchill took part in the British Army's last calvery charge.)or the fall of the Madi, only the story matters.
Although the characters are interesting we don't see enough of Tim Pigott-Smith as Ledger's father. He has screen presence and it is underused in the movie. On the other hand Djimon Hounsou performance was commanding. We are left hanging with him. A sequel telling the rest of the story of the war from his eyes would be worth the price of admission.
The transfers from some important points near the end was sloppy, I felt that we were missing an important scene or 2.
Still worth the money, but make sure you rent the Ralph Richardson version afterward, (Even the Beau Bridges version has some merit) Then you will have the whole story.
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