Surprisingly, Indian director Shekhar Kapur ("Bandit Queen," "Elizabeth") doesn't alter "The Four Feathers" too much to reflect today's political correctness. He and his screenwriters can't fail to acknowledge British brutality, but they recognize that the core values of "The Four Feathers"--heroism, loyalty and friendship--are timeless and don't need to be updated. Kapur also realizes that depicting the carnage of war is part of what makes the drama work. In a marvelously shot battle scene, sure to be talked about, Kapur powerfully demonstrates why the staid British military was no match for the unconventional Arab desert fighters.
As the tragically conflicted Harry, Heath Ledger ("The Patriot") turns in a superb performance, as does Djimon Hounsou ("Amistad") as Abou, the independent-minded Arab tribesman who saves his life.
Admittedly, "The Four Feathers" doesn't quite match its penultimate battle scene for sheer cinematic brilliance but it's consistently intelligent and entertaining. Starring Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, Djimon Hounsou and Kate Hudson. Directed by Shekhar Kapur. Written by Michel Shiffer and Hossein Amini. Produced by Stanley R. Jaffe, Robert D. Jaffe, Marty Katz and Paul Feldsher. A Paramount release. Adventure. Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, disturbing images, violence and some sensuality. Running time: 128 min