Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Mark Strong, Donald Sutherland.
I have to say that when I saw the trailer of this film in the theatre I wasn’t too impressed. Rubbish, I said to my cousin and he concurred. But The Eagle isn’t half bad. It’s not as stirring as say a Braveheart but it’s not the drivel you’d expect with an actor like Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe, Step Up 2) in the lead.
British director Kevin McDonald (The Last King Of Scotland, State Of Play) adapts a kiddie novel (by Rosemary Sutcliff) about a missing legion of soldiers of the Ninth order in the Roman Empire and a search for the symbolic ‘Eagle’ standard that was lost with them in the northern regions of England. Tatum plays Centurion Marcus Aquila and Bell is his Brit slave Esca who is indebted to his master for saving his life in the Roman arena.
Now the commander of said legion was Marcus’s father and since none of his men returned with the Eagle rumours abounded about whether they died honourably or not. Marcus lands an opportunity to go in search of the missing Eagle to restore his family’s good name and also restore some faith in his Brit slave who believes all Romans to be barbaric murderers and rapists.
As they traverse beyond Hadrian’s Wall (ostensibly built to protect the Empire from the barbarians of Northern England) the relationship and loyalty between Marcus and Esca are tested at every turn. They finally stumble upon a survivor of the lost legion and the gold Eagle standard but their rescue mission is thwarted by painted warriors who hate the Romans. Marcus ends up becoming Esca’s slave for a bit there.
What really surprised me about the film was Channing Tatum. The beefcake can act. His searing eyes and hewn jaw line add to his fervent mettle to resolve the mystery of the lost legion and his father’s disappearance. Donald Sutherland effectively plays his a trusted uncle. Bell is good as the slave who must balance his hatred for Rome with his ‘love’ for saviour and master Marcus. Bromance I think it is called.
Cinematography, music and editing are good making The Eagle a formula history piece that gets it right but just falls short of inspiring. The finale isn’t loud proclaiming victory and pride. Also, you may find it a tad slow at points or boring as some of my esteemed critic colleagues did.