"I Am My Brother’s Keeper"
What You Need To Know:
THE FOUR FEATHERS is a new rousing version of the classic novel by A. E. W. Mason about cowardice and redemption among British soldiers fighting in the Sudan in 1884. Heath Ledger of THE PATRIOT plays Harry Faversham, a former British officer who travels incognito to the harsh desert to help protect the three friends he let down just before they were due to be shipped off to war. In the desert, Harry meets Abou, a black Christian native who gives a godly moral context for Harry’s mission to become his brother’s keeper.
Like WE WERE SOLDIERS and HART’S WAR, THE FOUR FEATHERS is another one of this year’s fine Christian parables of the indomitable human spirit. In a great scene between Harry and Abou, Harry asks Abou why he rescued Harry and why he still shows concern for his welfare. Abou replies, “God put you in my path.” The movie focuses on Abou’s statement to deliver a powerful biblical message about God’s moral demand that we look out for one another, especially in times of great stress. This is an excellent movie that, despite its flaws, should be seen by mature Christian audiences everywhere.
(CCC, BBB, L, VV, S, N, A, D, M) Very strong Christian worldview with strong moral elements including helping others in need, loyalty, redemption, and forgiveness; several light obscenities and profanities; action, war and prison violence includes desert fighting with guns and swords, cavalry charges, people shot dead, man whipped, man beaten in prison, food taken away from starving men, fighting, and hand-to-hand combat, but nothing really graphic; references to prostitutes being offered to soldiers and man wakes up to find woman sold into prostitution engaged in passionate embrace with native man; upper male nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, lying, cowardice and disloyalty rebuked.
THE FOUR FEATHERS is a new rousing version of the classic novel by A. E. W. Mason about cowardice and redemption among British soldiers fighting in the Sudan in 1884. Made five times before, this new version may not match the exquisite quality of the classic 1939 version by Zoltan Korda, but it more than makes up for it in its emotional impact, especially toward the end. It is also another one of this year’s fine Christian parables of the indomitable human spirit.
In the story, Heath Ledger of THE PATRIOT and A KNIGHT’S TALE stars as Harry Faversham. The son of a British general, Harry resigns his commission on the eve of being sent to the Sudan to avenge the death of the great British general, Charles “Chinese” Gordon, who has been killed by vicious Islamic religious fanatics. Three of Harry’s friends believe Harry has become a coward. They each send Harry a white feather, symbolizing cowardice. Harry’s best friend, Jack Durrance, refuses to believe so ill of his friend, even though Harry’s fiancé, Ethne, has also sent Harry a white feather and even though Jack is secretly in love with Ethne himself.
As his friends go off to war, Harry begins to realize that, somehow, he must redeem himself. He travels to the Sudan to secretly help the regiment of his friends, especially since Jack was the one person who never sent him a feather. There, Harry disguises himself as a native. He is, however, like a fish out of water and, at one point, he must be rescued by an itinerant native, a black Christian named Abou, played by Djimon Hounsou of AMISTAD.
In a great scene between Harry and Abou, Harry asks Abou why he rescued Harry and why he still shows concern for his welfare. Abou replies, “God put you in my path.” The movie keys in on Abou’s statement to deliver a powerful biblical message about God’s moral demand that we look out for one another, especially in times of stress and need. Harry puts this moral principle to work in the most trying of circumstances. His example moves Ethne to get down on her knees in prayer near the film’s poignant ending. What a wonderful message to send, and what a strikingly graceful way to send it!
THE FOUR FEATHERS is an excellent redemptive movie that, despite its flaws, should be seen by mature Christian audiences everywhere. In fact, it’s well worth seeing at least twice, if not more times, to catch everything in it.
The script at times falters in THE FOUR FEATHERS, however. The director, Shekhar Kapur, should have figured out ways to better explicate some of the details, so that the movie doesn’t seem to jump around so much. He also could have figured out ways to milk more emotional depth out of the story. Even so, although he seems to underplay his hand a little bit too much, there are many exciting, thrilling moments in THE FOUR FEATHERS, which is one of the most beautifully photographed movies in the last few years. There are more than a few breathtaking shots in this movie.
Although the actors are sometimes hampered by the restrained direction, they do a fine job. Heath Ledger as Harry solidifies his reputation among his generation as an excellent leading man with a wide emotional and intellectual range. Kate Hudson (ALMOST FAMOUS) as Ethne and Wes Bentley (AMERICAN BEAUTY) as Jack have never looked or sounded better than they do here. Most amazing of all, however, is Djimon Hounsou’s performance as Abou. The story comes to extra special life whenever he’s on screen. Part of that may be due to the fact that there’s a stronger spiritual depth to his character than to the other characters. Nevertheless, viewers deserve to see much more of him in the future.
As Jesus Christ told his disciples, there’s no greater love than when someone lays down his life for his friends. May we all be so blessed that God puts this duty in our paths at least once in our lives.