Adventure Movies, by Ajay Singh, 14 April 2011

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Julian Lewis Jones, István Göz, Aladár Laklóth, Lukács Bicskey

Country: USA | UK

Runtime: 114 min

Release Date:

Language: English | Gaelic

Official Site: The Eagle Official Site

For purposes of clarity it is important to begin by saying that The Eagle is not a history lesson, that some of its costume and makeup decisions are wildly inconsistent, and that it has a tendency to split into two films instead of one.  Regardless of all that, it is still a surprisingly entertaining film, which happens to not suffer from excessive cheesiness.

Jamie Bell, Mark Strong and Channing Tatum in The Eagle

Jamie Bell, Mark Strong and Channing Tatum in The Eagle

Beginning with the arrival of Roman centurion Marcus Flavius Aquila (Channing Tatum) to serve as commander in a British garrison, the first half of the film has a casually gritty, down to earth flavor without excessive violence or gratuitous sex. There is an obvious respect for the material and some nice period details, which may or may not be accurate, but do help to draw you into the atmosphere of the film.

The dark secret of the brooding, ambitious Marcus is revealed early on – he is the son of one of the lost Ninth Legionaries, purportedly the last man to have held the Legion’s famous eagle standard before it vanished in the northern wilderness. Young Marcus hopes to redeem his family’s tainted honour by proving himself in Britain. This ambition is unfortunately cut short after his first, heroic defense of the garrison ends in a debilitating injury, earning him an honourable discharge from the army.

Unwilling to forsake his dreams and his honour, Marcus sets off on a dangerous expedition across Hadrian’s Wall accompanied only by his slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), a Briton rescued by Marcus from gladiatorial combat. Esca, incidentally, is resentful towards Marcus for depriving him of the opportunity of a violent but courageous death, but considers himself bound by honour to the man who saved his life.

It becomes clear very soon that Marcus and Esca will discover new facets of each other’s personalities, learn to see past their own political and cultural prejudices, and find that true honour and friendship are the same in every language. Dignified male bonding will ensue. The story is rather archetypal and predictable, and this film would never have worked without its two male stars. Tatum and Bell have excellent on-screen chemistry and take a thoughtful and psychological approach to their roles. They are both convincing and likable in their scenes together, but are unfortunately not helped by the art direction of the film’s second half.

As soon as the two cross Hadrian’s Wall, and consequently the border of the known world, all wardrobe hell breaks loose. They are constantly pursued by members of a menagerie of barbaric northern tribes in various states of undress. They range from bald, nude attackers covered entirely in mysterious tattoos, to the ferocious “Seal People”. The latter look uncannily like a cross between the ancient Mayans of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto and Avatar’s Na’vi, with their full-body make-up and long, braided mohawks.

This caricaturish depiction would have been understandable if The Eagle had been made sixty years ago, or if it had maintained a parody style throughout. As it is, the exaggerated viciousness of the northern tribes, coupled with their odd, non-climate appropriate attire, clashes jarringly with the pensive, realistic tone of the first half. If Marcus is meant to connect with these people through his friendship with Esca, and learn to see them as individuals rather than mindless forces of evil, the experiment fails dismally. The clean, civilized, soulful Esca with his modest costume and mild manners stands out here every bit as much as the Roman Marcus, and it comes as no shock when he turns his back on his “countrymen”, betraying them to help Marcus and return with him across the Wall.

The Eagle suffers somewhat from inconsistency of purpose, and gets lost occasionally in its own message. That being said, the battle scenes are well choreographed and edited, and the scenery, shot mostly in Scotland, is quite breathtaking. The film maintains a good tension throughout, and never descends to pathetic sappiness or epic cheesiness. All its flaws considered, The Eagle is still a thoroughly enjoyable film. In a genre that has lately seen far too much ridiculous melodrama, gratuitous gore, and embarrassing over-acting, The Eagle deserves some praise for its restrained acting and overall tasteful approach to the material.

The Eagle [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
Actors: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong, Douglas Henshall
Director: Kevin MacDonald
Format: PAL, Anamorphic, Widescreen, Dolby, Digital Sound
Language:
Subtitles:
Studio: Universal Pictures UK
Running Time: 109 minutes

List Price:
Price: £2.94
119 offers available from £0.01
3.9 out of 5 stars (335)

The Eagle Videos

The Eagle Trailer

The Eagle Stills

Donald Sutherland and Channing Tatum in The Eagle

Donald Sutherland and Channing Tatum in The Eagle

The Eagle

The Eagle

Channing Tatum in The Eagle

Channing Tatum in The Eagle

Jamie Bell and Channing Tatum in The Eagle

Jamie Bell and Channing Tatum in The Eagle

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