Monday, April 04, 2011

The Eagle

Year: 2011
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong

Plot: Set in 140 AD, twenty years after the Roman empire's Ninth Legion disappears in Scotland, along with their eagle standard, young centurion Marcus Aquila, son of the commander of the Ninth Legion, sets out across Hadrian's Wall along with his British slave Esca, to find the eagle and restore his father's honour.

Review: There aren't many medieval epic films out there worth remembering, other than Braveheart or Gladiator. The Eagle isn't close to sharing the same accolades as those two films, but the setting does remind me of King Arthur, starring Clive Owen and Keira Knightley. Except in The Eagle, there are no female love interests.

Kevin Macdonald, who directed the wonderful The Last King Of Scotland, manages to balance the drama and action well here, though the fight scenes aren't much to shout about. He was wise to hire Anthony Dod Mantle (127 Hours) as his cameraman, as we are treated to the vast and beautiful landscape of valleys, hills and mountainsides during Marcus and Esca's journey to the north.

The story actually focuses more on honour and respect than anything else. Marcus seeks to regain the honour that was lost when his father and the Ninth Legion disappeared without a trace, and is willing to do what no other Roman dares to do. Esca, despite his hatred for Marcus and his kind, for invading his country and killing his family, shows a sense of honour of his own by staying with Marcus when it matters. The two men's relationship drives the film, though I sensed that more could have been done to establish their eventual mutual respect for one another.

Channing Tatum is well known for being a wooden actor, but I'm happy to report that he has improved a lot here. Sure, he's a long way from being exceptionally good, but to his credit, he makes his character more believable than any other character he's played before. Jamie Bell fares better of course, with his Esca telling so much from his facial expressions alone. Bell and Tatum play off each other well here, and it is much appreciated, for The Eagle relies heavily on that.

Overall, The Eagle may not be as memorable as other films of the same mould, but it's worth a watch if you have 2 hours to spare. Some decent acting, good cinematography and a well told story never hurt anyone. (3.5/5)

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