A young British officer resigns his post when he learns of his regiment's plan to ship out to the Sudan for the conflict with the Mahdi. His friends and fiancée send him four white feathers as symbols of what they view as his cowardice. To redeem his honor, he disguises himself as an Arab and secretly saves their lives.
Although it has its amusing moments, in eneral the plot does not convince.
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In truth, there is barely enough story here to make a film.
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Yo, there's no way for me to review this film without saying, take your *insert ethnicity + "ass" here* to see this film,like now. You have to see it in order to know what you're really messing with.
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At first rather annoying in its heavy emphasis on reenactments, this movie ultimately proves fascinating, simply because the complicated, highly dramatic tale it tells still almost defies belief.
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The most just rating is a comparison to previous iterations, foremost on my mind the book, and by this metric the film performs poorly.I don't find fault with the actors, so much as the writers, and to a lessor extent the director.Thw film opens with a parallelism between sport and war, cutting down on the backstory of the main character and his military lineage and the expectations of his father, to build a sense of camaraderie, achieving one admirably, but no doubt erring somewhat in the sacrifice of the proper measure of Victorian propriety. I thought it frankly influenced by the Gilbert and Sullivan scene of Chariots of Fire, which though also an Empire era film, takes place in a different time period.And personally, I think Kate Hudson is ravishing here.Where the film really starts to fall apart, is when they leave England. Quite frankly, this film is in a higher taxon than mere political correctness. It is a white guilt film, joining such others like the recent Green Hornet and Lone Ranger films, where a perfectly good hero is ruined and made to play second fiddle to whatever minority character can be found, whether or not that character had really been done any injustice.The good whites must establish their bona fides by preventing their evil brethren from hurting or impugning the other races, it seems. The bad ones, well, we don't care what happens to them, do we?The photography is not exactly Lawrence of Arabia but pretty uninspired. One scene has the Mahdi's forces rise up from their hiding places underneath the sand, where they would have been cooking quite well. I saw this same scene more or less in the Costner Robin Hood film, in temperate England where it made more sense.There are many continuity errors.The main character seems to bumble from one scene to another, saved each time by his more heavily pigmented and thus more capable friend. Not an Arab, as in the book, but a black to more properly service the feelings of white guilt. He is tied to a post and whipped like a slave by an evil white, in one seemingly meant to be cathartic scene.Our new main character, spends a lot of time shirtless to show off his black skin and impressive muscles, but let us not forget this is an equatorial sun, and no man in his right mind would be caught shirtless.Of course, all this is really forgetting that it was the Arabs who were the slavers and the British who fought them (under Christain influence, no less!) to destroy the slave trade, as much as was practical, for one can still find slaves today in many parts of the world.The one likable British soldier, with one or two good scenes, is the blind man, a character performed admirably. But, alas, they leave out the small homage to the blind traveler (a real life character who traveled thousands of miles, sightlessly, on his own) that was in the much superior book.If one wants to see a movie version, the '39 film is a good adaptation.
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This is a review of "Storm over the Nile" (1955), "Khartoum" (1966) and "The Four Feathers" (2002), three films based on British actions during the Mahdist War (1881-1899).The 19th century saw colonial powers scrambling across Africa. As the British Empire expanded from Southern Africa to the Mediterranean, the Ottomans expanded from Turkey to Northern Africa and the French from West Africa to the Red Sea. All three would converge upon Egypt, which would continually shift hands between the three Empires.Britain eventually emerged victorious, becoming defacto ruler of Egypt in 1882. Egypt would henceforth become a base for further British expansion southward into Sudan. The Sudanese would attempt to fend off these advances. They'd rally behind Muhammad Ahmad, an Islamic messianic or "Mahdist" figure. Muhammad Ahmad was denounced by Sudanese elites, but embraced as a revolutionary leader by marginalised Nilotic tribes.Experts at using divide-and-rule tactics, the British divided Sudan into loosely demarcated northern and southern zones. The north became Muslim and Arab dominated and was integrated with the economic networks along the Nile. The south, steeped in poverty, was treated as an "African zone". A cocktail of Muslim, Christian and tribal groups, the south Sudanese were indoctrinated into thinking themselves culturally/biologically distinct and inferior. Promising independence and even salvation (he claimed to be paving the way for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ), Muhammad Ahmad set out to overturn this. Like the countless Christian messianic figures who sprung up as a result of Roman occupation, and a precursor to contemporary Islamic militants, he was the inevitable product of naked Imperialism.The city of Khartoum straddled northern and southern Sudan. To the North, the British suppressed the slave trade, heavily invested in social, educational and health services, and essentially nurtured a "liberalised" form of Islam. As colonialism recruitment policies favoured educated Arabs, a new socio-economic class was created so as to offer a bulwark against Mahdism and secular nationalism. An ideological bulwark, however, is no match for guns.In 1884, after a three month siege, Khartoum fell to the Mahdists, who stormed the city and executed British governor-general Charles Gordon. The Empire reacted swiftly. British forces under Herbert Kitchener rolled in and slaughtered tens of thousands of Sudanese. By 1898, most Mahdists were crushed. Sudan henceforth became subject to joint Anglo-Egyptian governance.Unsurprisingly, the British set out to exacerbate regional, religious and racial divisions amongst the Sudanese. In 1922, in what became known as the "Southern Policy", the Empire declared that southern Sudan would be considered a "Closed District". Islamic proselytisers were banned, Arabic languages and clothing were discouraged, and Christian missionaries were brought in to convert southerners. Meanwhile, southern Arab merchants were relocated to the north and interactions between the peoples of the north and the south were forbidden. Such segregationist policies were designed to keep the south economically backward and foster divisiveness.Today, little has changed in Sudan. Artificially carved out of a myriad of peoples, with more than 400 ethnic and linguistic groups lumped together within its borders, the country remains ravaged by the divide-and-rule tactics of modern neo-Imperialists. Milking the nation's oil fields and precious metals, the United States, and recently China, have today become expert at funding and arming militias and bloody regimes in both the north and south.Zoltan Korda would produce and co-direct "Storm Over the Nile" in 1955, a film based on "The Four Feathers", a 1902 novel by Alfred Mason. The plot? Refusing to sail with his regiment to the Sudan, Harry Faversham (Anthony Steel), the cowardly scion of a military family, overcomes his disgrace by travelling to Africa. Here he helps his regiment defeat Sudanese forces. As with many Imperialist adventures, the film glorifies queen and country, assumes the rightness of British rule, romanticises colonialism and posits loyalty and responsibility to the ruling classes as the highest ideal. Though stiff and dull in places, the film boasts several impressive action sequences, filmed in expansive Cinemascope.The 1950s/60s saw the release of numerous films which attempted to rejuvenate British nationalism and which were determined to white-wash the realities of colonialism ("Zulu", "North West Frontier", "Khartoum", "55 Days at Peking", "The Black Tent" etc). Supercharged by the civil rights and independence movements of the 1950s-60s, such perspectives were slowly contested ("Gandhi", "Guns at Batasi", "Burn!", "The Man Who Would Be King", "Passage to India" etc), eventually giving rise to the latest adaptation of "The Four Feathers", a 2002 film which was so politically correct as to be ridiculous.Directed by Shekhar Kapur, "The Four Feathers" (2002) tells virtually the same story as "Storm over the Nile". Here actor Heath Ledger plays Harry Faversham, who is no longer a "coward" but a man of conscience who has "ethical objections to colonialism". Harry travels to Sudan, where he befriends and fights alongside Africans and where he teaches us to question nationalism, exceptionalism and pride. Dull and conventionally shot, the film's attempts at "rectifying" its source material are mostly hokey. In some ways it is even more racist than Korda's film, Africans reduced to props, whole cultures reduced to ridiculous musical choices and second-hand "exotic" signifiers.Released in 1966, and directed by Basil Dearden, "Khartoum" stars Charlton Heston as Charles Gordon, a British General sent to Sudan to battle Muhammad Ahmad (Lawrence Olivier). Gordon valiantly defends a fortress in Kartoum, but is eventually overrun.By having its heroes outnumbered, like cowboys surrounded by hordes of manic Indians, "Khartoum" manoeuvres its audience into siding with colonialists. Elsewhere it uses Gordon's demise to criticise political leaders who refuse to rally behind valiant troops. Heston, who spent the decade battling hordes of on-screen "savages", is himself a caricature of British bravery, whilst Ahmad never rises above the level of black-faced bogeyman. Still, "Kartoum" has its merits. Impeccably shot, tense, filled with impressive battles and awesome landscapes, it remains the best of a certain brand of 1950s/60s, pro-Imperialist adventure.5/10 - Worth one viewing.
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Not because The Four Feathers is a favorite from childhood that wears very well but because, after recording from TMC and archiving on a disc, I discovered I had a 115 minute movie, not the 75 or 90 minute versions either listed on sites like IMDb or for sale from, well, everyone.Initially I thought that there was something wrong with the recording but, after a couple of hours looking for intermissions, repeated scenes or recording breaks it turned out this was the entire movie and where TMC got it is a wonderful mystery. TMC itself lists it as a 90 minute movie and there was no mention of having discovered this version either on-site or during the presentation.Whatever - I'm just glad they did because those extra 25 minutes add to the film tremendously and fill in a lot of holes that I'd noticed, even as a kid, in the 90 minute version. As much as I'd enjoyed it, The Four Feathers always seemed truncated in that version but I'd always blamed the local stations for chopping it up. Now I know better.This version does start slow, overdoing the set-up, but that is a very, very minor flaw. Once it takes off (a poor term for any British movie) it become a true marvel of film making. The pace is very much British, measured like a metronome set at 2/4 lentando, but that pacing actually adds to the impact of each scene, especially the action scenes, which seemed discordant in the 'original', but now have the length to stand on their own as mini codas instead of irritating diversions.Ironically, those extra 25 minutes speed the viewing by eliminating the 'stops' (those breaks when one scene doesn't quite flow from another, pushing you off the screen) and restoring the seamless flow of the movie.So, thanks TMC, wherever you found this, for a very welcome surprise.Update 12-16-13Just noticed that IMDb has me reviewing the 2002 version. Never saw it; this review is for the 1939 version.
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The story is set in 1884 during the British Empire uprising Harry Faversham (Heath Ledger) is a young army officer from a distinguished military family who never wanted to join the army He did it for his father He resigns his commission on the eve of his regiment's departure for Sudan Harry has already disgusted his strict father, a respected General in the Queen's Army, by declaring no interest in a soldier's life and now that he is about to be married to his beloved Ethne (Kate Hudson), he wants to settle down When his closest friends and fellow officers find out that he disgraced the regiment, they send him a box of feathers of cowardice When Ethne sends him another feather, he then disappears to redeem himself, to face up to his fears, to discover himself, to win back his self-respect...Shekhar Kapur's "The Four Feathers" is beautifully filmed and performed The themes of love, honor, loyalty, friendship, trust, redemption, wisdom, true strength, and true courage are all there They made the characters entirely plausible But what truly lingers in the memory about it are the stunning sequences filmed in the Sudan and the splendid staging of several battles, showing the then standard British tactics employed in holding off attackersthe forming of squares, with riflemen deployed in standing, kneeling, firing, holding line, and keeping eye on the target These exciting scenes of combat and carnage are truly impressive