Four Feathers hoping to fly high at the UK Box Office

Preview by Jack Foley

THE Four Feathers, the new film from highly-rated Elizabeth director Shekhar Kapur, looks set to do Box Office battle with Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, when it is due to open in UK cinemas on January 10, 2003.

The epic, based on the novel by AEW Mason, will feature prominently at this year’s Regus London Film Festival 2002, and stars Heath Ledger, Kate Hudson and Wes Bentley.

Taking place in 1898 Sudan, the movie finds Ledger’s British officer, Harry Faversham, resigning his post prior to the battle of Omdurman and being presented with four white feathers (symbolising his cowardice) by his fiancee (Hudson) and three friends (one of whom is portrayed by American Beauty’s Wes Bentley).

In a bid to regain his honour, the young officer plans to disguise himself as an Arab and infiltrate the enemy capital, in order to free his captured colleagues.

Shooting on the movie began in Morocco, before moving to London, and is said to feature some spectacular battle scenes, along with a compelling story. It has previously been filmed in 1939, when it starred John Clements and Ralph Richardson.

During filming in London, however, the shoot had to be postponed when an accident involving a horse resulted in injuries to seven people on the set.

Six extras and a horse handler were hurt, according to news footage at the time, while a statement from the film's production team confirmed that an accident occurred while on location at the Greenwich Naval College.

Four of the injured were hospitalised as a result, while three were treated on the scene - although none of the film’s major stars were on set at the time of the incident.

Filming was temporarily halted, however, out of respect for the actors who were hurt.

The movie opened in America this weekend (September 20, 2002), to mark the start of the autumn Box Office season, but has so far received a mixed response.

Some critics praised the large scale of the movie, while others failed to be convinced by either its performances or the telling of its story. Scroll down to find out more.

What the US critics thought…

Hollywood Reporter sets the ball rolling in this round-up by declaring that the Four Feather is a ‘rousing if retro adventure film’, while The Onion’s AV Club praised it for being an ‘old-fashioned in the best way’, adding that it is ‘a crackling yarn told on an epic scale’.

The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, stated that ‘director, Kapur, is a filmmaker with a real flair for epic landscapes and adventure, and this is a better film than his earlier English-language movie, the overpraised Elizabeth’.

Of a more mixed nature, however, were the likes of Entertainment Weekly, which awarded it a C+ and said ‘starts out well, but then it seems to restart, over and over again’, while Variety referred to it as ‘a dull rendition of the old warhorse about honour lost and redeemed in Africa during Britain's high colonial days’.

LA Weekly went one worse, by stating that ‘Ledger attempts, in vain, to prove that movie-star intensity can overcome bad hair design’, while, perhaps the most vitriolic, was Slant Magazine, which wrote it off as ‘a high school production of Pearl Harbor’.

Another Pearl Harbour comparison came from David Levine, of FilmCritic.com, who wrote: "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."

Reel Views, on the other hand, awarded it two and a half stars out of a maximum four but concluded that it was ‘merely adequate’, while Village Voice opined that it ‘feels both tiresomely old-fashioned and disturbingly topical’.

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