The Four Feathers

A lavishly mounted if blandly written adaptation of the British adventure novel by A.E.W. Mason, which has been filmed eight other times. Heath Ledger stars as an officer who resigns his commission just as his unit is being shipped overseas to defend Khartoum from Muslim insurgents; his comrades, thinking him a coward, send him white feathers to symbolize his disgrace, so he sets off for the Sudan incognito to rescue his self-esteem (and their asses). For some reason screenwriters Michael Schiffer and Hossein Amini have omitted the opening chapter of the novel, which explains the hero's ambivalent feelings toward the military, and to soften the book's imperialist leanings they've given him an African sidekick (Djimon Hounsou) who dispenses wise epigrams and shakes his head at the white man's foolishness. The film's opening and closing moments are weirdly reminiscent of Black Hawk Down, another tale of Western soldiers in over their heads on the dark continent—clearly no one these days understands manifest destiny. Shekhar Kapur (Bandit Queen, Elizabeth) directed. 127 min.

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