"The Eagle" Movie Review
Independent Films, Talk Shows, Movie Reviews, Interviews
My review of the new swords-and-sandals epic, "The Eagle" starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell from "The Last King of Scotland" director, Kevin Macdonald.
Transcripts / Production notes / Scripts
When we hear the name Channing Tatum, we think of romance ("Dear John"), action ("G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra"), or dance movies ("Step Up") but we never associate the actor with swords-and-sandals epics like his new film "The Eagle."
Set in 140 AD, Tatum stars as Marcus Aguila, a Roman soldier who will do anything to restore his father's reputation. 20 years earlier, the elder Aguila commanded his 5,000-strong Ninth Legion and marched north into Caledonia (today's Scotland), carrying their golden emblem, the Eagle of the Ninth. They never returned.
Director Kevin Macdonald, the guy who gave us the excellent film "The Last King of Scotland," has always been interested in using his film as an etymological look into the clash of cultures. Put two men from two different backgrounds together, make them clash, and let them find deeper friendship in the end.
That formula is evident in the director's first full-feature film "Touching the Void," the Oscar-winning drama "The Last King of Scotland," and to some extent, his first foray into Hollywood filmmaking with "State of Play."
Macdonald, who started his career making documentaries, is interested in finding resolution through chaos. In "The Eagle," the director paired up Marcus with Esca (Jamie Bell), a Briton slave who despises Romans but is forced to become the soldier's slave.
Together, the master and his servant set off across Hadrian's Wall on a dangerous and obsessive quest in finding the Eagle. Their journey will push the pair beyond the boundaries of loyalty and betrayal, friendship and hatred, deceit and heroism.
It's interesting to note that besides the familiar U.S.A. symbol, the eagle, the Romans in the film are also instructed to talk with an American accent. In addition to Tatum, there's Donald Sutherland as Marcus' uncle, and a "True Blood" actor, Denis O'Hare, shows up to play Lutorius, Marcus' ally.
Even British actor Mark Strong ("Sherlock Holmes"), who plays a Ninth Legion deserter, is instructed to talk with an American accent. Having the Romans sound like Americans is a decision that is both intriguing and off-putting.
I have to admit that it took me a while to get used to the accent ploy, but once I got into the action of the film, it seemed like a foregone conclusion. Macdonald defended his stance by saying that making Romans talk with American accents is a sign of the times.
In the 40s and 50s, it made sense using British actors to star as Romans because back then, Great Britain was still an empire, similar to the Romans in the early history of the world. Now, it's apparent that America is the new empire with our vast military power.
So is Macdonald equating America with Rome? And with the once mighty Rome falling, is the director presupposing that American civilization will also suffer the same fate? This may be a good documentary for Macdonald to make.
But the director, inspired by Rosemary Sutcliff's novel, aimed to make a rip-roaring adventure with an important quest at its core. He succeeds, for the most part, thanks to the film's fluid energy. Tatum is also believable as an embattled soldier and a bitter son.
My main complaint is the absence of a woman character. Where are the strong mothers, powerful sisters, or heck, even vengeful goddesses? In the end, "The Eagle" dares to be a character study but it morphs into an entertaining swashbuckling adventure.
RATING: "THE EAGLE" GETS 3 KISSES
Year of Production: 2011
Country: United States