It's quite a bold move to open this period epic with a football game of all things, one that includes Heath Ledger and a bunch of hotties going at it on the field. But director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth) can only keep up the ruse for so long before we get the picture: they're playing rugby, the actors are all British officers and The Four Feathers, taken from the 1902 novel by A.E.W. Mason focuses on the 1884 British campaign to attain a key piece of Northern Africa.
Ledger does his best with the material as Harry Feversham, the general's son who resigns on the eve of a battle in the Sudan. His three comrades each send him a white feather, a symbol for cowardice. The fourth is delivered by his fiancee Ethne (Kate Hudson). Talk about a kick in the nads.
From there Harry spends the rest of the movie posing as an Arab and trying to rescue his friends to prove his mettle. It could have been a nice adventure, and it is at times, with brilliantly poetic cinematography from the great Robert Richardson (JFK), who portrays these scenes like beautiful paintings. But then Kapur bogs down the visual awe with stilted profundity.
Then there's the romance angle. Harry's fried Jack (Wes Bentley) does all he can to steal away Ethne, and its a triangle that zaps the film of much needed energy. An to hear Hudson put on a Brit accent defines cringe-inducing, and tat's not even mentioning the character who opens his eyes to the horrors of war after he's blinded. Ugh.