Before 2002, A.E.W. Mason's stirring 1901 novel had been filmed five times, including two silents, a 1929 version with Fay Wray and William Powell, a 1939 UK version with Ralph Richardson, and a 1977 TV version with Beau Bridges and Jane Seymour. The 2002 adaptation directed by Shekhar Kapur (whose last project was the 1988 "Elizabeth" starring Cate Blanchett) is an old-fashioned, lump-in-the-throat epic whose like is not often seen these days. The year is 1884, when Britain rules a quarter of the planet. Ledger stars as Harry Faversham, an officer in Her Majesty's service who is about to marry the vivacious Ethne Eustace (Hudson) when his regiment is called to service in the bloody Sudan. Realizing he had become a soldier only to please his father, a general, he resigns his commission, but three of his best buddies -- and his sweetheart -- gift him with white feathers to signify cowardice. Only his closest friend, Lt. Jack Durrance (Bentley) remains silent. Harry finds his marriage dashed and his father a stranger. There being no future for him in England, he realizes he must rejoin his friends. He sets out into the desert to find them, and eventually hooks up with a strong and resourceful local named Abou Fatma (Hounsou) who sometimes spies for the British but is very much his own man. Eventually Harry will see the worst that battle and imprisonment have to offer, and his friends wounded and killed, but he will redeem himself. The movie is slow and stately for its first half, but accelerates into intense and vivid action in Africa. Ledger is quite good, but the most impressive work is done by Hounsou (who was the magnificent Cinque in "Amistad") and Bentley: long-suffering and stoic (and all the more amazing a performance for an Arkansas native whose last notable role was as the creepy boy-next-door videographer in "American Beauty"!).
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The review of this Movie prepared by David Loftus