The Eagle (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner25/03/2011

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 114 mins

Despite strong, likeable performances from its two charismatic leads, The Eagle never quite takes flight and is ultimately brought down by a dull script, annoyingly edited fight sequences and a boring plot that places too much emphasis on trudging.

What's it all about?
Directed by Kevin Macdonald, The Eagle is based on the 1954 novel by Rosemary Sutcliff (The Eagle of the Ninth) and stars Channing Tatum as Marcus Aquila as a Roman centurion in 140 AD. When he takes charge of a garrison, he is instantly branded a bad luck omen by his men, because his father led the ill-fated Ninth Legion, who vanished without trace along with their golden eagle standard some 20 years previously. Marcus then wins the respect of his men when he leads them to victory in battle but is injured in the attempt and ends up recuperating with his uncle (Donald Sutherland), who buys him a slave (Jamie Bell as Esca) to tend to his injuries.

However, when Marcus hears that the eagle has been spotted in Caledonia (i.e. Scotland), he sets off to retrieve it, with Esca in tow. Along the way, Marcus and Esca meet Lucius (Mark Strong), a soldier of the Ninth, who tells them of the Legion's vicious battle with the Seal People and warns them to watch out for their savage leader (Tahar Rahim).

The Good
Tatum and Bell are both excellent and have strong chemistry together, which the film immediately runs away from whenever it rears its homoerotic head, as if afraid to finish what it starts: this is most notable in a scene where a half naked Esca has to lie on top of a half naked, sweating Marcus during surgery, a moment that's never referred to or referenced again. Frankly, a little more Brokeback Mountain in the film would have gone a long way.

The film is also beautifully shot, courtesy of cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, who gets terrific use out of his stunning Scottish (and Hungarian) landscapes.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is the script, which is stultifyingly dull and has a marked overemphasis on trudging through the mud at the expense of action sequences, emotional engagement or suspense. In addition, though the battle scenes are nicely researched (you learn a lot about shield deployment), the editing is of the choppy, fast-paced variety that ruined Gladiator, to the point where you can never tell who's hitting who with what.

Worth seeing?
Despite impressively physical performances, The Eagle is a disappointing drama that never quite gets off the ground, thanks to a dull script that fails to engage on an emotional level.

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The Eagle (12A)
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Content updated: 22/04/2019 11:07

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