2002 Running time: 131 Certificate: 15 Not yet rated

Synopsis

Old-fashioned but thoroughly enjoyable yarn about the friendship, courage and loyalty of five friends commissioned to a British regiment in 19th century Sudan. Heath Ledger is a decent lead and he's given able support in a competent, at times fascinating, adventure.

Director

  • Shekhar Kapur

Cast

  • Kate Hudson

  • Heath Ledger

  • Djimon Hounsou

  • Wes Bentley

Review

"I sometimes wonder what a Godforsaken desert in the middle of nowhere has to do with the Queen," observes one young soldier.

The statement could have been from any squaddie in the last few hundred years - from the Crusades through to the Battle for Basra.

The desert in question here is the Sudan, which is in danger of being seized from Victorian colonialists by Mahdi rebels.

Comrades-in-arms Jack (Bentley), Trench (Michael Sheen) Castleton (Kris Marshall) and Willoughby (Rupert Penry-Jones) soon get their marching orders.

But the fifth of their number - Harry Feversham (Ledger) - resigns his commission on the eve of their departure without having the courtesy to tell them first.

Shocked by his action, Harry's father disowns him and three of his old friends - and even his fiancee Ethne (Hudson) send him a feather - the symbol of cowardice.

Tormented and alone, the bond Harry has with his comrades inspires him to transcend his uncertainty and he's off to the Sudan to undo the damage.

This harks back to an era where soldiers and even the media would not question the duty to fight for king and country.

It's stirring stuff, particularly the expertly staged desert battle scenes which benefit from some glorious scenery and excellent cinematography.

Kapur keeps the action bowling along and doesn't step back from some of the colonial racism that kept the British Army on the move.

It also asks some pertinent questions about where your loyalty should be to your country or to your friends.

Ledger in Lawrence of Arabia mode is a decent lead and he's given able support, particularly by Hounsou as his warrior guardian angel.

A competent, at times fascinating, Boys' Own adventure. With lots of sand.

Tim Evans

You may also like