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Genre: Drama, Adventure
Country: United States
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland
Director: Kevin MacDonald
Run time: 114 minutes
DVD distributor: Alliance Films
The Eagle (also known as The Eagle Of The Ninth), comes out June 21st from Alliance Films. It’s heroic without any real heroism, epic without a really grand scale, and violent with precious little blood. It has a star (Channing Tatum) playing Marcus Aquila who has the look and the physique to play a Roman war hero, but the charisma of a boiled parsnip. It has a sidekick (Jamie Bell) who is an integral part of the story, but does little more than brood and scowl.
The Eagle is the story of a golden eagle standard carried into Britain by the famed Roman Ninth Legion, commanded by Marcus’ father. The eagle standard is a symbol of Roman power and glory and might and some other stuff. For some reason. The Ninth Legion disappeared (true story) somewhere North of Hadrian’s Wall, and so Marcus’ father is now disgraced. It seems that the loss of an entire Roman legion would be the main reason for that disgrace, but it turns out that the disgrace came because he ALSO lost the gold eagle on a stick.
For the first 40 minutes of the movie, Marcus fights some barbarians, kills some bad guys and generally proves his war-hero bonafides. Then he decides to restore his father’s honour by venturing into Britain, alone, to bring back the Eagle. Which will then, apparently, restore his family’s good name. For some reason. He is persuaded that he will need help, so he brings his slave with him.
Marcus’ slave is Esca (Bell), a captured member of a clan that are sworn enemies of the Roman Empire. Marcus saved Esca from certain death (in a scene that has little bearing on the rest of the film, although it seems to think it does), so Esca hs sworn an oath to help Marcus. Simple enough. Now they are going into Esca’s home land, so Marcus will need the help.
From there, it’s a lot of walking. And random encounters with murderous gangs (who never make it clear why they want to kill these two wanderers), former members of the missing Ninth Legion (who aren’t terribly helpful) and finally, as if by divine providence, the very tribe of painted-faced warriors who are in possession of the Eagle. And from there it’s one long chase until the end of the film. (Which is like the long walk leading up to it, only faster.)
A lot of The Eagle is reminiscent of recent, better period piece war movies. There are a lot of flashback scenes in slow motion with wind blowing grass around and hands appearing as
Russell Crowe Channing Tatum remembers his father. There are shots of the vast highlands as William Wallace Marcus and Esca flee on horseback.
A lot of this really works, and the camera work is solid in the slow scenes. But the battle scenes are choppy and confusing, and they refuse to show blood or carnage, even though they make it clear brutal stuff is happening. (Beheadings, young kids having their throats cut.) They won’t even show the death or blood of a wild pig, I guess to maintain their PG-13 rating. Although I think the 14-year-old audience for this one is scant anyway.
Some decent moments are not enough to save The Eagle from wooden lead performances, confusing fights and a poorly paced plot. It’s one to skip.