The Eagle (2011)
Main cast: Channing Tatum (Marcus Flavius Aquila), Jamie Bell (Esca), Donald Sutherland (Uncle Aquila), Mark Strong (Lucius Caius Metellus), Tahar Rahim (Prince of the Seal People), Denis O'Hare (Lutorius), Dakin Matthews (Senator Claudius), Pip Carter (Legate Placidus), Ned Dennehy (Chief of the Seal People), and Donald Sutherland (Uncle Aquila)
Director: Kevin Macdonald

The Eagle is a dramatic adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff's 1954 novel The Eagle Of The Ninth. That book might be meant for children, but this movie has plenty of graphic violence. Parents, you may not want to let your kids watch this one. Kids, if you want to ogle at Jamie Bell and Tahar Rahim, and pause the film when Channing Tatum walks around in a loincloth, while enjoying all the gore, tell your parents that this movie is based on a book meant for children and make sure they aren't around when you pop this into the player.

Poor Marcus Flavius Aquila. He means well, and he is a good commander of his men in the Roman army, but his family name is sullied by the fact that, twenty years ago, his father led the Ninth Legion into the northern areas of what is Great Britain today, and they never came back. The eagle standard of the legion vanished with the men, and the family name never recovered.

When the movie opens, Marcus arrives in Britain to serve as the garrison commander of a remote outpost, charged to defend the outpost against the local Celtic tribesmen. He deliberately requested for this position, because of his father's tragic history. Marcus manages to repel a massive attack, but his leg is severely injured in the process. He gets decorated but his career with the Roman army is effectively ended due to his injury.

While recuperating at his uncle's estate, he rescues Esca, a slave, whom he takes in as his personal companion subsequently. He also learns of rumors that the missing eagle of the Ninth Legion has been sighted in the northern areas of Britaon. It's not like he has anything else to do, so he decides to embark with Esca to recover the eagle, discover the fate of the Ninth Legion, and restore his family name. It is convenient that Esca is actually the son of a local Brigantes chieftain, which helps Marcus considerably with the locals, but can Marcus trust Esca not to betray him now that Esca is back among his own people?

The Eagle is a quaint movie in the sense that it is actually an old-school type of action movie, relying on minimal CGI to retain a greater degree of realism while maintaining an epic feel to the proceeding. There is no supernatural element here, just two guys against the world (and possibly, against each other as the movie progresses).

Channing Tatum looks good as Marcus, but unfortunately, the poor dear isn't the most expressive actor around. As a result, Marcus often comes off as a straight plank - an obvious jock with a big heart, but quite bland all around. Jamie Bell is a better actor, and it's certainly commendable that he hit the gyms to look like a Greek god just for his role, but while he certainly has enough chemistry with Mr Tatum to make the bromance between Marcus and Esca enjoyable, the script doesn't develop Esca's character well enough for me to truly understand his motivations. Since a big part of this movie plays on whether Marcus is right to trust Esca so implicitly, Esca's poorly developed character doesn't let this part of the movie fly. I'd just assume that these two guys are so in love with each other that they want to be together forever.

The pacing is great, and the movie is actually most entertaining to watch in one sitting. It's also great that the movie doesn't shy away from violence, as it drives home the tragedy of loss and the nobility in sacrifice, especially when the dying is to an appropriately rousing symphony of drums and violins. Still, the grand battle is a bit of a letdown, though. I was expecting something... bigger... after all the build up.

The Eagle is a watchable movie, although I feel that it could have been better if they have taken time to develop the main characters a bit more. All in all, it's pretty good.

Rating: 80

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