The Eagle. Period piece. Set in the time of the Roman Empire. Legions march. Swords cling-n-clang. And a friendship is formed. 114 minutes later…The end.
It’s really that simple folks. Usually this sentence is saved for the end of my reviews, but overall, this is mildly interesting, but the poor direction can never break this piece through the average barrier. This is why…
Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) is a commander in the Roman army. His reputation precedes him, for he is the son of a great commander, who directed the infamous Ninth Legionnaires. Their fame stems from tragedy. Marcus’ father was leading the legion far north into unexplored territory. On his person, was the golden eagle – the symbol of Rome. After many months have passed, the five-thousand men that made up the ninth legion were never heard from again. The emperor ordered a great wall be built to keep out whatever forces bested the mighty legion. All of Rome was to consider this wall the “end of the world.”
Based on these tales, Marcus has always dealt with other soldiers showing him a lack of respect, despite his position and heroism. In the midst of a surprise attack, Marcus successfully defends his outpost and single-handily defeats the fierce savages from Briton. However, his efforts were not without consequence. An injury forced him into retirement. During this time, his Uncle (Donald Sutherland) takes him into is wealthy compound. As distinguished guests pass through, continuous banter and rumors about Marcus’ father’s fate motivates him to cross into no man’s land and find out what happened to the ninth and the golden eagle. He feels that by uncovering the truth and possibly finding the eagle statue, his family’s honor will be restored in Rome.
He is not going alone though. His personal slave – and Briton countrymen – Esca (Jamie Bell) is required to come along on what everyone considers to be a journey to certain death.
Let’s see, what were the positives? Acting was decent. Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell formed sufficient chemistry, even though their dialogue only reaches anything resembling a level of substance during the climatic sequences. Supporting players were game too. Mark Strong has a role that is slightly above cameo criteria. Denis O’Hare – who looks anything but an elite Roman solider – makes the most of his early moments. Rest of the cast were limited to piece-meal scenes. The majority of this flick follows our two main characters riding on horseback through the lands of Scotland. Which is about the only time the cinematography is worth it.
Because the rest of the camera work blew it in all the limited fight scenes. To make matters worse, this is rated PG-13, and they never pushed the envelope in the gore and/or action department. If this was a Disney production, this approach would be understandable. However, the execution feels dated. Pretty sure 1981’s Dragonslayer and/or the recent Narnia flicks had better fight choreography. As alluded to earlier, the action is very light in this flick. Less action would be tolerable if the script could inject life into the other sequences. Subtle attempts at innovation are noticed in a few moments such as the poor man’s gladiator fight (more like beating) and interacting with the barbarians of the north. Then again, these said moments eventually led to nowhere gripping or pertinent.
Mechanically speaking, the continuity of the characters’ actions is a bloody nightmare. From having a fatal injury one minute, and then being able to fight off numerous savages; To seeing men on horseback with a head start getting caught by starving warriors after days of running in the mountains, is beyond ridiculous. A lot of the third act felt like they took the cutting room floor shots from Last of the Mohicans, polished them up and then had a four year old paste it together. It’s a shame too, because the cast was really trying here.
In the end, this review will close out and compare The Eagle similar to how the Roman society voted on whether a fallen gladiator should live or die. Thumbs up or thumbs down (hopefully Ebert will not file in court). My thumb is definitely down. As the flick went on though, it did improve slightly. So picture yours truly with my thumb down at stomach level for the first half of this flick. At the completion, my thumb is still down, but my hand now resides at my chest level.
Hey, it makes sense to me.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5