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The Four Feathers

Freedom. Country. Honor. Passion. To save his best friend, one man must risk everything he loves.  

Year: 2002 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from The Four Feathers

Directed by Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth) who has an all-star cast to work with, this was destined to become both a commercial success as well as claiming a few mentions in the Academy Awards. 

It tells of the story of a British officer, Harry Faversham (Heath Ledger), who resigns his post just before a war in Sudan and subsequently receives four white feathers from his friends and fiancee (Kate Hudson) as symbols of what they believe to be his cowardice. In a bid to redeem himself he goes after his friends in the searing deserts of the Sudan.

Alas, the film wasn't promoted, it flopped big time at the box office, and when it arrived in the UK no one paid attention. The Academy Awards didn't seem to know that the film existed. What happened?

The film had so much going for it - it had quiet dramatic scenes, unrequited but heartfelt romance, surreal adventures, and a big battle scene that rivals those of Gladiator (you have to see it to believe it). It had the feel of Lawrence Of Arabia and the style of The English Patient (the cinematography is, for lack of a better adjective, breathtaking). The non-British main actors in what is essentially a Hollywood British movie did a rather good job with the accents - and it is intriguing to see Ledger in a dramatic role for a change (as opposed to the oft-mentioned A Knight's Tale).

With good production values and an interesting story to tell, it is a cruel irony that the film didn't gain the recognition of a blockbuster. Basically what destroyed the film were the unfortunate events of Sept. 11, which contributed to exec decisions to edit the film down from its 3 hour run time and market it less rigorously than they planned to (though no one knows how it even remotely relates to said event).

This is one of those films where you seem to live a lifetime with the characters - the way it was filmed you can almost feel the heat of the Sudanese desert and the Victorian streets of London. If you want a film that contains a little bit of every film genre, from drama to romance to adventure to war, this is it. At the very least it is also a blockbuster movie that, as Ebert writes, 'looks good, moves quickly, and is often a jolly good time.'

Sebastian Ng

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Screenings of this film:

2003/2004 Spring Term (35mm)