Notable Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong
Review: As a guy, I’m pretty much wired to hate Channing Tatum because of the roles he plays (or the fact that every girl in the universe is obsessed with him). So, I had to rationalize seeing The Eagle by optimistically convincing myself the battle scenes would be worth it, and maybe Channing Tatum would die (His character, I swear I’m stable) Won’t comment on if my dreams were answered, but this period piece was nothing more than mildly entertaining. Some Romans fight, Tatum’s dad loses some silly gold eagle that apparently brings shame to his family name, and no one ever thinks just to make another gold eagle. Problem solver. The action is period appropriate but recycled, and instead of land expansion being the fight for war, it’s the recovery of…wait for it…THE EAGLE!
Marcus Aquila (Tatum) has forever lived the shame of being an Aquila. His father Flavius Aquila led the 9th Legion into Scotland, only to vanish along with the stoic golden Roman artifact simply called the Eagle. Marcus of course follows in his father’s footsteps and becomes a Roman soldier, which eventually leads to him taking over commanding duties in a dilapidated outpost. His presence saves the lives of many men, but almost takes his as he bravely puts himself before his soldiers. With his wounds he is returned to his Uncle (Sutherland), where he is nursed back to life, but receives the news that he’ll never fight for his country again because of his injuries. While watching a gladiator match with his Uncle, he sees a poor slave being pit against a mighty warrior. When the slave doesn’t fight back and accepts his fate, Marcus sways the crowd to let him live. For that, the slave is in his debt and his Uncle brings him in to care for Marcus personally. With no hope of returning to battle, Marcus grows weary of his future and decides that it is time to do what he came to Britain to do: find the Eagle and restore his family name. Accompanied by his slave Esca (Bell), Marcus sets out for the desolate and rogue tribe filled land of Caledonia, with only hope that he return the Eagle safely.
What The Eagle really boils down to is one giant bromance between Tatum and Bell’s characters. There’s the obvious class struggle to start, Esca being a common slave boy and Marcus being a decorated war hero. Then, when the duo sets out into the wasteland past the final gate, Marcus becomes the odd man out being a soldier for the army that tried to invade Esca’s home land and steal all the land from the native British. How will they ever get along?! It’s just too “we’re so different, well never be able to settle our differences,” while the whole time you know they’ll come out of the experience best of friends. What kind of movie would it be if as soon as Marcus and Esca go past the gate, and the first thing Esca does is slit Marcus’ throat and ride away? The whole time I was waiting for Marcus to roll over and utter those famous “I wish I knew how to quit you” words to counter act their obviously overblown manly egos, but they settle for being bros instead.
I was bothered by a section in the film that took place when Marcus and Esca find the tribe withholding the Eagle. Esca’s native dialect is what makes him an asset to Marcus in the foreign lands, so of course much of it is spoken throughout the film. In small doses, it’s easy to understand what Esca is talking about while Marcus eagerly stands idle or when Esca explains the conversation at hand. But for a particularly drawn out period of time, Esca is with the tribe while Marcus is held under restraint, and there is no type of translation at all. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking to be spoon fed, nor do I need to be spoon fed in my films. In fact, you pretty much get the gist of what is happening way before that meathead Marcus figures it out. But, as the viewer, it gets frustrating watching Esca jabbering away with no way of knowing what is actually being said. It’s not a matter of not knowing what’s going on, but it’s the sense of staying involved in the movie. The film also tries to use the lack of translation to its advantage, when Marcus has an emotional moment and Esca refuses to tell him what is said. It’s more effective to show the audience a subtitle of what is said, even if you don’t want to reveal it to Marcus, so at least the audience feels some kind of tie to the film. Keeping your audience in the dark doesn’t always build drama, and when it does, it just feels like The Eagle is taking the cheap way out.
But, there are some redeeming qualities to The Eagle. The battle scenes were well done and period accurate, showcasing the giant shields of the Roman soldiers and the strategies that had the entire squad forming one synchronized mass of weaponry that proves discipline in battle was way more beneficial than numbers. The action wasn’t as abundant as some would think, but when it was there it was worth while. As far as Channing Tatum playing a convincing Roman sentry, I can admit I’d much rather see him take more action based roles such as this. His accent was a little funny at spots, especially at the end when the tone of the film goes from period appropriate to some campy buddy cop movie from the 80s. The range of the film falls somewhere between mildly to averagely forgettable, but in the end is nothing more than just that: forgettable. By the time Marcus reaches the end of the film, finding The Eagle seemed just as trivial as the movie itself.
Final Rating: 6 raging Romans out of 10
Not cashing in on Channing Tatums abs? Fail…