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The Four Feathers
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Length:2h 10mins
Cast:Shekhar Kapur, Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, Kate Hudson

Adapted to film no less than seven times since 1915, A.E.W. Mason's classic novel of adventure reaches the screen yet again in a sturdily mounted, gorgeously photographed version distinguished by the top-drawer performances of Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, and Kate Hudson. It gives Ledger his meatiest role to date; as Harry Feversham, the young British officer who succumbs to fear and earns the contempt of his friends, this handsome young leading man has never been better. Wes Bentley is equally good as Jack Durrance, Harry's best friend and fellow officer, who journeys with the regiment to the Sudan, where native chieftains have rebelled against the English. Given a white feather -- the traditional symbol of cowardice -- by each of his three closest comrades and his heartbroken fiance‚ (Hudson), Harry eventually overcomes his fear and performs feats of bravery designed to redeem himself. Director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth) goes to some lengths to shore up Mason's casually racist story with politically correct underpinnings, but the yarn's principal thrust remains unaffected. Extensive location shooting, thousands of extras, and superlative battle scenes make this Four Feathers the most elaborate of all, but its greatness derives primarily from the timelessness of its theme: There is no shame in being afraid, as long as you don't allow fear to determine your actions. Kapur supplies a feature-length commentary for this deluxe DVD edition, which includes a full-blown "making of" documentary and no less than seven featurettes covering various aspects of the production. Ed Hulse

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