In grade school, history lessons were painfully boring, but at least we learned the facts. I wish the same could be said for history lessons found in today's movies. Last year, Pearl Harbor wasted an opportunity to study the December 7 invasion - rather, it chose to pursue a useless love triangle. The Four Feathers is nothing more than an equally bad retread of Pearl Harbor. It has little to do with the history regarding British colonialism it seeks to explore; in fact, I doubt the film is even historically accurate. And, like the details of the Japanese attack in Pearl Harbor, the historical events in The Four Feathers only exist to provide the framework for the telling of a predictable and implausible romance.
Harry Faversham (Heath Ledger), a soldier with the British Army, is unwilling to travel into the Sudan with the rest of his regimen to protect British interests there. So, he resigns his commission. In response, Harry's fellow soldiers issue him three feathers symbolizing his cowardice for leaving. Looking for support, he turns to his father (a former military officer), who disowns him. As well, his fiancé Ethne (Kate Hudson), who provides a fourth feather and calls off their engagement. Unable to cope with the harsh reactions his decision prompts, Harry hastily departs for the Sudan to find a way to help his friends and redeem his honor.
While in the Sudan, Harry acts as a spy for the British in one battle, then a warrior for the opposition in another. Often times, it's difficult to understand where he is going, what he is doing, or why he is even bothering in the first place. To be honest, I don't think he even knows. I guess we're supposed to believe his journey is meant to win back the respect of his comrades, and especially the love of Ethne. Unfortunately, Harry's once faithful friend Jack (Wes Bentley), an officer in the Army, disrespects him by turning his own friendship with Ethne into romance. After that, the movie abandons the war on the front lines and focuses on the battle for Ethne's heart.
Many details unrelated to the love triangle in The Four Feathers are either thrown aside or left unexplained as it barrels toward its eventual romantic resolution. I left the theater wanting to know what happened to the rest of the British soldiers. Were they able to retake the Sudan? Once Harry completes his journey, the film abandons anything relating to the British army and their mission in the Sudan. I could care less what happens to Harry and Ethne's engagement or Jack and Ethne's continuing courtship - I had that figured out several reels before. With drawn-out speeches and romantic dribble in the film's waning moments, the three main characters only prolong the agony.
The Four Feathers attempts to achieve epic motion picture status with a small helping of monumental battle scenes painted against grandiose, sand-swept desert landscapes and vistas. It is indeed a beautiful picture to look at, and no doubt it will be considered for cinematography awards come Oscar time. But its sense of grandeur is quickly lost in the confusing and unnecessary melodrama. In short, The Four Feathers is exhausting. You just wish it would end; which, I guess isn't too far off the boredom of most history lessons.
DVD extras include seven featurettes and a making-of documentary, plus a full commentary from director Shekhar Kapur. If you liked the historical side of Feathers, you'll love this DVD.
Dude, like, feathers totally suck!