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A wise sage once said, "Without fear there are no heroes, only fools". But for Harry Faversham (Heath Ledger), the fear of fighting a battle he doesn't believe in results in shame and the accusation of cowardice.
In the late 1800's, the British Empire is embroiled in defending its acquisitions in the Sudan desert. Following a devastating loss, Harry's company of young, untested soldiers is called up to bolster the war efforts. Faced with the grim prospects, the recently betrothed lieutenant (who joined the army only to make his father happy) decides to resign his post before he is shipped out and instead proceed with his wedding plans.
Unable to understand his decision in an era when military honor ranks supreme, a trio of fellow officers (Michael Sheen, Kris Marshall, Rupert Penry-Jones) send him a box containing their calling cards and three white feathers -- the sign of cowardice. The sting of their denunciation increases when Harry's fianc0xE9e, Ethne (Kate Hudson) adds her feather to the collection and his father publicly disowns him.
Resolving to redeem his honor, Harry sets sail for the Middle East in hopes of assisting the army and his friend Lt. Jack Durrance (Wes Bentley) without rejoining the ranks or revealing his presence. Aided by Abou Fatma (Djimon Hounsou), a skilled native from a slave tribe who befriends the young Englishman, the two outsiders plunge into the bloody and brutal clash between the opposing militia.
Filled with graphic depictions of hangings, battle scenes and corpses, A.E.W. Mason's novel, has been committed to celluloid at least five times with this latest installment being possibly the most visually disturbing. The horrors of fighting a "gentleman's war" in the gritty sands of the Sudan include slit throats, stabbings, impacting bullets, striped bodies and merciless beatings.
While these historically based images may ring true, their impact often darkens the story of Harry's courageous rise to restore his reputation and reinstate himself in the circle of friendship. Although other content issues are capped at some bare male buttocks and a brief sexual scene, families may want to forego The Four Feathers.
The Four Feathers is rated PG-13: for intense battle sequences, disturbing images, violence and some sensuality
Cast: Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, Djimon Hounsou, Kate Hudson