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Movie Reviews

The Eagle



Released: 11th February 2011

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell

Certificate: 12

Reviewer: Luke Walkley

The latest in the medieval/gladiator-esque genre of films, Channing Tatum plays Centurion Marcus Aquila who, after saving British slave Esca (Jamie Bell) embarks on a quest to restore honour to his family name. As head of the Ninth Legion Aquila’s father was responsible for protecting one of Rome’s revered treasures ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’. After being injured in battle Aquila is not content to accept his honourable discharge and instead uses Esca to help him travel undiscovered through Britain to find the missing Eagle.

Directed by Kevin Macdonald, who is known for such films as State Of Play and The Last King Of Scotland. the ‘swords and sandals’ action film begins in typical fashion. As the new commanding officer of a legion, Aquila (Tatum) is desperate to make his name known so a battle shortly begins, with lots of hack ‘em, slash ‘em blood and the typical flaming arrows and hot oil the opening offers no real talking point to any of the opening action scenes. It may seem like I’m instantly picking holes in the film, however in a genre so often recreated, each film must make a unique impression to cause some lasting impact and with The Eagle it just doesn’t materialise quick enough.

Themes of loyalty and honour crop up throughout all movies of this type, the idea that these are more important than one man’s life was key to making Gladiator the success it became. The ideologies that the Romans so strongly believed in is lost in Tatum’s performance, sure he gets angry when people mock his father’s defeat and the loss of the Eagle, but when it comes to the serious side of his role and the dialogue he shares with Esca, Bell’s performance outshines Tatum’s in nearly all areas. This wouldn’t have been a problem had the roles been reversed and Esca was the one looking to restore honour, however as this isn’t the case the film suffers greatly from Tatum’s lack of depth. This isn’t to say Tatum doesn’t fit the solider bill perfectly, seemingly typecast as the burly, eye candy he is most comfortable with the action scenes, though in a film where a lot of screen-time is shared between the two main leads, it’s difficult to get by on action sequences alone.

As I mentioned previously, these films need something to make them stand out in the memory of the viewers. I have seen countless films seemingly happy to jump on the bandwagon, reap the rewards and fade away into the background of film forever. So it is a welcome change when one takes the conventional practices of a genre and remoulds them. Kick Ass for example, took the ‘superhero’ genre to a new level, yet, while there is plenty of scope to do this in Roman themed features, each one carries on down the beaten track rather than take the road less travelled. Several moments of inspired camera shots and cinematography are wasted in a film that lacks any other real substance.

The film isn’t a complete travesty, as above there are one or two nice shots here and there, most of the underwater/thunderstorm scenes are crafted well enough to offer a light reprieve from the tired script. A scene where the

majority of the background noise is removed leaving only the sound of the two combatants breathing , offers a glimmer of improvement for the films remaining time but it turns out to be too little, too late.

The Eagle is an unispiringly average film, a decent performance by Bell is surplus to requirements as Tatum fails to give any personality to his character and all belief in the story is gradually lost. Mark Strong cameos as Guern, a member of Aquila’s father’s legion. However, even his performance does not go a substantial way in rescuing the fortunes of what is an acceptable attempt of reworking a tired topic. The Eagle barely takes off and when it does, it fails to soar to the heghts required to make a lasting impression.

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