Heath Ledger, Kate Hudson and Wes Bentley all look very professional in their historical British costumes that they sport in the movie The Four Feathers. But the good stuff ends there.
The Four Feathers is supposed to be a war epic about friendship, trust, heroism and love, but comes across as trying too hard on all of these points.
Ledger (A Knight’s Tale) and Bentley (American Beauty), who are supposed to be best friends, look like two toddlers forced to play with each other in the sandbox. The smiles and jokes are forced and the two young stars come across as stiff and uncomfortable. Hudson (Almost Famous) doesn’t get much screen time, which may be a reason for her not coming across strongly, but when she is on, she is dry and uninteresting.
The story follows Harry (Ledger) who is a ranking officer and the son of a colonel. When Harry’s regiment is ordered to ship out to the Sudan, Harry gets cold feet and resigns from the army. One minute he’s doing his duty and the next minute, he’s an outcast.
As a sign of his cowardice, three of his closest friends and his fianc give him four white feathers, to show him how he has disgraced himself and his family.
Hudson, who plays Ethne, Harry’s fianc, gives Harry the feather because she cannot stand the thought of their reputation in the upper class world of parties and dinners, being ruined.
The only one who defends Harry is his best friend Jack (Bentley). But Jack has a roving eye for Ethne, and when Harry resigns, Jack makes it his mission to make Ethne his wife.
What all of them don’t know is that Harry is planning to go to the Sudan to help his friends, disguised as an Arab. Ledger dons many different beards as he slowly tries to blend into the background of the desert people.
While on the journey to meet his friends, he comes across a tribesman who inadvertently becomes his friend. The monstrous Djimon Hounsou (Amistad) plays Abou Fatma, who aids Harry in his trek across the desert and teaches him how to blend into a crowd of poor Sudanese.
The fighting scenes are interesting, as they show how the British army fought in the 1800s, using the famous ‘British Square’ battle plan.
The problem is that Ledger is miscast as Harry. He is not convincing as a coward turned hero. His dialogue is sparse and uneven and we feel like saying ‘enough already’ as we watch him get beaten to a pulp several times.
Bentley tries hard to come across as a noble British officer and does all right during the battle scenes. He probably should have brushed up on his 1800s British etiquette, as he stumbled through the movie trying to stand straight, but unable to hide his bad posture. Hudson’s character was beautiful, but was obviously not needed.
The Four Feathers is a good movie for history buffs, but a bad one for people wanting a good show.