Gladiator, Braveheart and to hell with dignity even Pathfinder. I will watch pretty much any movie set in the historical past. I am a big fan of the “swords n sandals” epic therefore it was with naive high hopes I set off on opening weekend to see The Eagle.
PLOT: Marcus (Channing Tatum) plays the son of a Roman Centurion who lost a coveted Eagle and an entire Legion (the 9th to be exact) over Hadrian’s wall thereby shaming the family name. Marcus accepts a post in Britain in order to bring respect and honour back to his family. After Marcus is injured he is honourably discharged from the army and goes to live with his uncle Donald Sutherland. Marcus saves a young slave Esca (Jamie Bell) and the two set off over the wall in order to retrieve the Eagle and bring it home to Rome. Can Esca be trusted? Can Channing Tatum keep up his British accent? Can they retrieve the Eagle? Why in the name of fucking hell is Mark Strong American? END PLOT.
My love for historical movies is greatly helped by the fact that I know very little about history. My lack of knowledge may make general conversation with a historian short and limited but it has greatly helped my ability to enjoy film without getting all hung up on the details. In the grand scheme of things the latter is much more important and relevant to me.
I have no idea whatsoever of the historical accuracies contained in The Eagle and in my true lazy-ass tradition I will not be researching same.
The entire concept of The Eagle is one large gray area. The supposed hero of The Eagle is Marcus but he is in no way apologetic or remorseful for invading Britain, killing the innocent and taking their lands. The only real crime of the Scottish tribe who have taken the eagle is being violent in the defence of their country and perhaps being a tad smug about their theft by performing a drug induced tribal style dance ceremony around it, in what has been I assume, a regular occurrence for the past twenty or so years. The entire movie is based on a murky event in which a right and wrong isn’t clear. Luckily The Eagle has a hero in Esca and at least gives the audience someone who isn’t completely selfish to route for - who doesn’t like a genuinely nice guy?
The Eagle does become disjointed in Act 2 with a role reversal subplot which lasts slightly too long. We are in age of the bromance and perhaps the middle section would have been improved by more interaction between Marcus and Esca.
The relationship between Marcus and Esca is as one would expect - two men go off on an adventure not quite trusting one another, friendship grows, the seeds of mistrust are sown, a misunderstanding is erm reaped (?) and a fully fledged brotherly bond blossoms.
I am not a major Channing Tatum fan as he is a bit too All American for me and I had major reservations about the accent but he was fine. He looks good in Roman getup and although the accent was poor by the time it fizzled out completely I was so into the film I didn’t notice.
Jamie Bell is a growing favourite and will be a huge star in the not to distance future. Esca was the most sympathetic character and Jamie portrayed this very well.
The weakest link in the cast, and I cannot believe what I am about to say, is Mark Strong. Mark was in two sections of The Eagle in what was essentially an extended cameo. His first scene was fine and the usual Mark Strong excellence was deployed but in his second section jeez he suddenly put on the worst American accent I have heard in a long time. It stuck out like a sore thumb and quite frankly it has forever tarnished the legacy of Mark Strong. The sudden and unnecessary arrival of an American accent so obviously fake will never be forgiven or forgotten.
The action scenes were surprisingly good and they were violent. I know that a 12A rating is quite broad these days but I think they just scraped it and no more.
The Eagle is set in Britain in 120AD and the entire look of the movie was cold and wet and coming from Ireland, although not being around in 120AD, I can confirm that global warming has not had any effect whatsoever on the weather as it is still cold and wet. Some of the shots over the Scottish Highlands were stunning - but wet.
The Roman costumes were as expected but I cannot look at a Roman Centurion
without thinking of this:
Aside from a slightly sluggish 2nd Act I really enjoyed The Eagle. I am prepared to give Channing Tatum the benefit of the doubt and it has confirmed the class of Jamie Bell. The Eagle gets an 8/10 and I know I will get this on blu-ray when the time comes. It is flawed in parts but its part of a genre that I love.