Director: Kevin Macdonald
Set during the Roman era and based on the popular historical novel “The Eagle of the Ninth” by Rosemary Sutcliffe, “The Eagle” bucks the trend of recent films by trying to keep the computer generated effects to a minimum. What results is an experience where the battle sequences are appropriately hard-hitting, trying to give an authenticity to a genre that is usually and cheekily referred to as ‘sword and sandals.’ Yet, whilst Kevin Macdonald seems to have paid attention to the style of the film, he’s apparently taken his eye off the ball when it comes to plot and acting.
After saving his garrison from attack, Roman Commander Marcus Flavius Aquila is honored for his bravery and honorably discharged for the injuries he’s suffered. But his enforced leave fills him with sorrow – his career was the only way of clearing his uncle’s name, which was dishonored after losing his garrison’s eagle emblem to marauding British tribes. Knowing that he must take matters into his own hands, Aquila takes slave Esca – a Brit who despises all the Romans stand for – beyond Hadrian’s Wall (the border to Scotland which Romans believe going past will spell death). There he will encounter savage tribes and hidden secrets as he attempts to avenge his uncle and find the lost eagle.
This is a disjointed affair, taking an age to set up and then not quite deciding what it wants to be. Commentary on colonialism? Straightforward action film? It tries to do too much and ends up feeling something of a mess. It’s not helped by the fact that Channing Tatum in the lead role is rather dull and Jamie Bell – as the proud slave Esca – seems to be more concerned with showing off his abs than actually showing any emotion. It’s a shame as the grimy style (partly due to impressive cinematography from Anthony Dod Mantle) works well and, as a visual experience, the film is engrossing.
Fighting isn’t big and it isn’t clever. But, in the case of “The Eagle,” it’s the most interesting part of the movie.