THE FOUR FEATHERS, from 2002, was the 6th film version of the adventure epic written by A.E.W. Mason back in 1902 , and almost certainly will be the last. Other than a few moments of action, a real letdown. No way was a revisionist go at a saga of Brit colonial era gallantry going to match the classic, grand-scale 1939 version, but did it have to be so dratted dull?
The 1880s. When his regiment sets off to tackle the desert uprising in the Sudan, young officer ‘Harry Faversham’ (Heath Ledger) opts out. His family is outraged, his scandalized fiancée (Kate Hudson) dumps him and his aghast fellow officers leave him a parting gift of feathers to mark him a coward. Harry sets out alone to follow the expedition and prove everyone wrong.
A few years earlier, director Shekhar Kapur scored by re-imaging history with Elizabeth, but the spark for Queen Victoria’s lads fizzled here. Co-writers Michael Schiffer and Hossein Amini each bear some decent credits but together they came a cropper. This time around, Harry has help from a mercenary African warrior (Djimon Hounsou), presumably so as to ease the consciences of those who would otherwise feel guilty about watching. From the lethargic start to a shrug finish, it just doesn’t fly, even with talents like Hedger and Hounsou. Hudson is woefully miscast, the supporting players are a bland band. Apart from one really wowing overhead shot of a battle, the crucial (and too few) action scenes lack excitement.
With $35,000,000 expended to mount filming in England and Morroco, it bombed out: the international gross just reached $29,800,000, 61% of that in the States, where it expired at 113th place.
James Horner does what he can with his score to inject some energy. Robert Richardson’s cinematography does justice to the desert and gets the movies signature moment (and preview selling point) with that one sweeping battle overview. With Wes Bentley, Chris Marshall, Michael Sheen, James Cosmo. 132 minutes.