Loosely based on Rosemary Sutcliff's 1954 novel The Eagle of the Ninth, and the subsequent 1977 6-episode TV show of the same name, THE EAGLE is woven from the fabric of a fictitious myth centered around Rome's notorious Ninth Legion, who mysteriously disappeared whilst traveling through the savage-ruled territory of northern Britain.
Twenty years later, a Centurion by the name of Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) - the son of a guard of the Ninth and keeper of the empire's sacred golden idol - seeks to restore his family's honor and his father's name by recovering the long lost eagle of the Ninth. With the help of a native British servant boy (Jamie Bell), the unlikely duo trek into the unsettled unknown on a death-defying journey. Yet, the truth they uncover about the unsolved fate of the Ninth and the eagle is worth its weight in gold.
If the film sounds like a 114 minute game of capture the flag to you, then you would be correct in your assumption. Except that the game lasts about 14 minutes too long with an outcome that's made uneventful in that you've been made to wait too long to truly be moved in the ways that the film is obviously trying to move you. Not to mention that when the giant golden eagle is, spoiler alert, finally recovered it turns out to not be made of chocolate covered in foil wrapping. But I can admit that it is entirely possible that last critique was just more of a personal disappointment for me.
And yet I would venture to say that most would expect better out of a film considering those involved. Well, maybe not Channing Tatum, who may have thought he was signing on for an American Eagle ad and not THE EAGLE. I'm a believer that Tatum could work given the right role (just as any actor could), but here he just seems oddly placed and entirely not believable as a Roman Centurion. You can take the boy out of the hood but you can't put a hooded cloak on the boy and expect us to feel that his transformation into a character from AD 140 is authentic. As for Jamie Bell, he is acceptable and entirely serviceable in the role of Esca, the Scottish slave and a Brigantian Prince. However, there's a tone to his character and his performance that is, dare I say it, more homoerotic than heroic, which is at times distracting to the point that it's laughable.
Kevin Macdonald's direction and Jeremy Brock's screenplay are the true disappointment. From the pair who brought us THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND, you would just expect more from a historically-based drama. More drama worth caring about. More emotional depth to make us care. And more action, for Caesar's sake. Instead, what we get with THE EAGLE is a downright boring film that really could have been directed by anyone.
If they say "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" then I say "when in the theater, do yourself a favor and skip this one." All you'll really miss is a lot of walking and little to no story.
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