THE FOUR FEATHERS
Directed by Shekhar Kapur
A Film Review by Alex Grant
alternately spectacular and subdued seventh version of A.E.W. Masons
The Four Feathers, Shekhar Kapurs third film, after his vigorous
virago panegyric The Bandit Queen (1994) and his transcendental
Elizabeth (1998) is an honourable failure.
to avoid the gung-ho Gunga-din echoes of the 1939 version,
director Kapur pussyfoots around the issues of colonialism and fanaticism
in his portrayal of inflexibly patriotic stiff-upper-lip British Royal
Cumbrian redcoats Vs wily opportunistic Muslim guerrillas. It is set in
the Sudan at the time of the assassination of General Gordon in Khartoum.
Films set in desert wastes commonly, like those set underwater, tend to
move like lava, playing at a mere 33rpm when they should be revolving
at 45rpm. Trudging through sand is laborious for the spectator and even
more laborious when done on camel back. To witness such truculent trudgery
is a chore.
The Four Feathers, despite subtle performances by Heath Ledger as the
cowardly cavalry officer Harry Faversham and Wes Bentley as his heroic
counterpart Jack Durrance, the rival for the hand of Harrys fiancé
Ethne Eustace (Kate Hudson), and in spite of workmanlike direction; the
film proves to be a turgid plodding epic. It awkwardly combines several
elements of the 1950s and 1960s roadshow epic movies, such
as Lawrence of Arabia, Spartacus and Ben Hur. That is, the Christ-like
protagonist is subjected to all manner of bodily and spiritual indignities
in his quest for redemption. A cavalryman on his personal road to Calvary.
Four Feathers is slo-mo suffering amid the dunes without any contemporary
© Alex Grant September 2002
< Reply to this Article