By Gary Murray
Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong and Tahar Rahlm
Directed by Kevin Macdonald
Running time 114 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Martine
Channing Tatum is becoming the new Hollywood pretty boy. The male lead from Step-up has been working on building a career by taking on both independent roles and major box office spectacles. The latest has a bit of both worlds and is entitled The Eagle.
The story of The Eagle takes place in the last days of the Roman Empire. Marcus takes command of an outpost in the farthest reaches of the Empire, the lands of Britain. It is a land full of hostile tribes and dangers but Marcus wants the command, his father's command. It seems that his father once explored these lands and died on this soil. losing a golden eagle that represented not only the legion but the pride of Roman rule. Marcus wants to find the people responsible for the death of his father and the taking of the prize.
After the outpost is attacked and Marcus is wounded, he is taken back to Rome to heal. His uncle (Donald Sutherland) assures that Marcus has done his duty and can retire. The young man has other ideas. Watching a slave (Jamie Bell) fighting a gladiator, Marcus is impressed by the bravery of the condemned man. After having his life spared, Marcus takes the slave for his property. The slave is from Britton and knows where the eagle is harbored. Marcus decides that he and the slave should go back to Britton. As a two man team, the could easily travel into the barbaric lands and sneak into the village. The plan is to recover the golden eagle statue and restore the honor of Marcus' father.
Soon, Marcus finds that being all along in the dangerous backwoods is not a safe place for a hated Roman. He also learns that a slave is not a slave in another land and that a free man can easily become the slave of another. The Eagle is of how all the plot threads lead to the ending battle between some disgraced Romans and a horde of natives.
Channing Tatum looks the part of a brave Roman soldier, with massive biceps and solid chin, but like those films of years ago. he still sounds like an American. The makers of the film make all the Romans speak English and all the English tribes speak in tongues. It is laughable. Fairing much better is Jamie Bell as our slave. He never shows his hand when dealing with the different groups. One never knows where his ultimate loyalty will lie and who he will eventually side with. It is a guessing game where the stakes are life and death. It is a strong performance that should make Bell's Hollywood cache much more valuable.
The biggest problem with The Eagle is that it just looks ugly. Between the flat lighting and dark backdrops, the film never finds any spark in the production. With everything being drab and dull, the action never establishes that grand feel one needs for this kind of picture. Director Kevin Macdonald never finds that epic spark needed to tell an epic tale. While some of the battle scenes are exciting, others are framed in such a way that the action is lost
Based on the novel the Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff, The Eagle is one of those sword and sandals epics that popped up in the 1950's around the time of Ben Hur and Sparticus. It is not even close to being in those leagues. It drags along and never builds any kind of genuine thrills.