The Four Feathers

2002

The Four Feathers

Critics Consensus

Though beautiful to look at, The Four Feathers lacks epic excitement and suffers from an ambivalent viewpoint.

41%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 150

65%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 38,107
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Movie Info

The story, set in 1898, follows a British officer who resigns his post when he learns of his regiment's plans to ship out to the Sudan for the conflict with the Mahdi. His friends and fiancee send him four white feathers, which symbolize cowardice. To redeem his honor he disguises himself as an Arab and secretly saves the lives of those who branded him a coward.

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Critic Reviews for The Four Feathers

All Critics (150) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (62) | Rotten (88)

Audience Reviews for The Four Feathers

  • Apr 04, 2013
    Don't care what anyone else says. This is my second-favorite Heath Ledger film (second only to Brokeback Mountain). And Wes Bentley -- for all his personal problems -- is FRICKIN' HAWT in this film. (Wes -- hit me up on Flixster if you wanna date, m'kay?) Costumes and location magic? Holla!
    Christian C Super Reviewer
  • Apr 07, 2011
    As many times as A.E.W. Mason's classic novel has been adapted, do we still only have four feathers? Well, it's not like we're going to be getting any more adaptations of this story any time soon after this, because this film was pretty critically and commercially underwhelming to have what was a star-studded cast for the early 2000s. That's right, people, there was a time before "The Dark Knight" when the late, great Heath Ledger was getting all kinds of work, but it was way back when people knew who Wes Bentley and Djimon Hounsou are, while Kate Hudson was, in fact, in good movies. Yup, I'm that guy who really likes this film, but it's not completely satisfying, at least as British cinema, because I just made reference to Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, Djimon Honsou and Kate Hudson. I don't exactly know where the Brits are, because even the director is, of all types of people, an Indian, although, in all fairness, the Indian in question is Shekhar Kapur. This is the guy who celebrated Queen Elizabeth in two films, and now he's portraying the British Empire trying to take over Africa, so just in case the Brits end up taking over India again, Kapur's going to be getting some special treatment, although it probably won't be for this film. Again, I really like this film, but I can kind of see why people weren't exactly rushing out to see it, you know, outside of the fact that this would have been, like, the twelfth time they were exposed to this story ("The Forty-Eight Feathers"). As inspired as the film is, it does have a few notably lazy areas, with one of the least of its concerns being a high degree of conventionalism which could have been transcended, and is in a few aspects, but not enough obscure the predictability of a trope-heavy and, well, inconsistent path. Everyone criticizes the film's uneven thematic focus, at least when it comes to a viewpoint on cowardice in the face of an ultimately superfluous danger, but a much bigger issue is inconsistencies to narrative focus, whether it be unevenly exploring the individual leads of this ensemble drama, or jarring from each one of the episodic segments. Exploring a juicy romantic triangle, a brutal war, an adventure towards redemption, and other intriguing affairs and themes, this film takes on epic and layered subject matter, and juggles it a little spottily, being both too draggy in certain spots, and too short to really flesh out the flow in its progression, resulting in a disjointed pace that begets a disjointed narrative. As big an issue as anything in the final product, the uneven plotting reflects a narrative bloating that is further reflected in the melodramatics, not in (Okay... here goes) Mark Pellington's, Bruce Joel Rubin's, Greg Brooker's (*Breathe*), Michael Schiffer's, Risa Bramon Garcia's and Hossein Amini's (Whew) script, but in A.E.W. Mason's original story, which is often driven by manufactured and improbable motivations and happenings that could have been sold if the final product had the control to match its ambition. I've complained about the laziness of the film, but when sentimentality is overblown for theatrical contrivances over genuine tension and drama, ambition really starts to draw your attention to the shortcomings, which includes a laziness in a sense of sweep, for although the scope and depth of this film are adequate, there's something undercooked about the many angles of Mason's classic melodrama. Entertaining and compelling, the film doesn't boast the excitement that it could have taken to a strong, maybe even outstanding point, and under the weight of its predictability, inconsistencies and melodramatics, it is secured shy of what it could have been. Regardless, the final product rewards more thoroughly than many say, because for every misstep, there is inspiration to craft a compelling and, of course, beautiful flick. The great James Horner approaches this project with his trademark emotive sweep to make the sentimental moments all the sappier, but his score remains outstanding in its range, with hauntingly tender minimalist touches and symphonic touches which encompass anything from tension to realized emotional heights that help in defining the soul of the film, as surely as it defines the epic's aesthetic value. The also great Robert Richardson does further justice to the artistic integrity of this drama, with cinematography whose rugged coloration is gotten used to after a while, but whose stunning lighting and grand scope immerse you into a versatile world that Zack Grobler's, Keith Pain's and the assisting Rachid Quiat's art direction builds lavishly, with the help of Allan Cameron's intricate production designs and Ruth Myers' lovely costume designs. The film is beautiful, there's no denying that, even among those who criticize the substance that accompanies this epic's drama, for the aesthetic aspects of this film do a more consistent job than the storytelling at doing justice to A.E.W. Mason's vision, of an epic which encompasses elements of war in all of its horror, social conflicts, romantic melodrama, and all sorts of other juicy themes within a sweeping scope. There is a lot of intrigue within this story to do justice, and injustice, and the screenwriting team of (Here we go again) Mark Pellington, Bruce Joel Rubin, Greg Brooker, Michael Schiffer (Boo-hoo! Does it ever end?), Risa Bramon Garcia and Hossein Amini do both, formulaically and very, very unevenly exploring Mason's narrative, but still holding your attention with wit, as well as some humor to help humanize the characters, whose other layers are well-drawn enough to make this a compelling ensemble piece even on paper. Not all of the characters are given as much attention as they probably should be given, but they all endear, and that's largely because the acting is so strong, particularly within such supporting talents as the charismatic Djimon Honsou, and Wes Bentley as an honorable military man who finds great personal challenges on and off of the battlefield, and within Heath Ledger, who captures his good-hearted character's transformation from a coward fearing a needless demise, to an adventurer seeking redemption and salvation for himself and his peers. There are a lot of people to drive the dramatic resonance of this undercooked epic, but where the engagement value most thrives is within Shekhar Kapur's direction, whose tight scene structuring unexpectedly sustains a consistent entertainment value, punctuated by grand, if near-bloodless scenes of battle, and by inspired moments in thoughtful dramatic storytelling which transcend, if not utilize the sentimentality to engross, if not provide the occasional glimpse into a stronger film. With more nuance, consistency and sweep, this film could have gone far, but for all of its shortcomings, its heart pumps enough blood into this epic for it to consistently compel. In conclusion, the familiarity and gross unevenness to the telling of this worthy tale whose melodramatics are exacerbated by sentimentality, and whose scope is betrayed by other superficialities which betray a potential for considerable strength that could have been fulfilled through the beautiful score work, cinematography and art direction, nuanced writing and acting, and colorful, when not engrossing direction which secure Shekhar Kapur's "The Four Feathers" as an entertaining and fairly rewarding interpretation of A.E.W. Mason's classic epic story. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jan 10, 2010
    I've actually always found this to be a good movie. Even though it is constantly bashed by critics, I think it's a beautiful story. It's not perfect, but it's not bad by any means. The acting was good and the scope of the film was as broad as an epic.
    Conner R Super Reviewer
  • Dec 15, 2009
    I tried so hard to keep awake on this Movie. What a shame great casting but very poor film.
    Wahida K Super Reviewer

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