CHANNING TATUM JAMIE BELL DONALD SUTHERLAND
Having former male model Channing Tatum as the biggest draw for a film is not enough. The Eagle, from director Kevin McDonald (State of Play, The Last King of Scotland), takes a big detour from his typical critically acclaimed films for a poor man’s Gladiator. Tatum, who has recently found some mainstream, unimpressive acting fame in roles like GI Joe, Dear John and Step Up, has only one thing going for him--his looks. Male actors can get by even less on appearances than actors like Jessica Biel or Halle Berry; to cast Tatum nearly on his own here to carry a film with such a large budget is a big mistake.
Severely injured Roman commander Marcus Aquila (Tatum) has been relieved of duty after his triumphant victory over the British savages, whom they have fought so long. Desperate to heal and find another challenge, Marcus saves the life of a young British slave named Esca (Bell), who becomes his personal slave. Irony aside, Esca leaves his hatred for Roman kind behind and vows to never leave Marcus's side. The two go off into the forbidden northern British territory to search for the long lost metal eagle that was taken from Marcus’s father in a battle long ago, Marcus hopes to restore his family name and finally get an answer to his father’s death.
The only thing The Eagle, written by Jeremy Brock (Charlotte Gray, Driving Lessons), has going for it is the highly underrated Jamie Bell (Billy Elliott, King Kong). It’s actually quite amusing to see an actor who is dripping with everything that’s wrong about Hollywood style acting standing beside an actually talented, studied British actor like Bell. Perhaps the contrast was suppose to work in the favor of each character, but it does nothing but simply reveal how un-talented Tatum really is. Sutherland continues to attach himself to bad movies in small doses here with another in-and-out type cameo.
If you go into this film expecting Gladiator type grandeur you will be disappointed; lacking a strong male lead, short on creative and impressive cinematography, and nothing in the way of a rousing musical score, The Eagle is bland. Not even half way through the film you know where it’s going and where it will end up. Heroics are going to win here and nothing can stand in their way, which is the running theme of any Tatum film. The type of films Tatum chooses (or at least the ones he is allowed to play) have no character depth and that’s where much of this film's problems lie. By the end the two men walk out bright doors saying what’s next like a silly cartoon.
Final Thought – Barely enough energy harnessed here to keep the audience awake.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Michael Woody
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
The Eagle is a rough, exciting ride through British Caledonia in 120 AD. It's about honor, the "sins" of the fathers being visited on the sons, the complexities of male bonding, and the timeless sense of entitlement "civilized" societies feel and act out toward native cultures
It's also a well told story about a Roman centurion, Marcus Aquila, who is honor bound to redeem the reputation of his father who, with his Roman legion, went missing in Britain 20 years before, along with their standard, the golden eagle. Along the way, Marcus earns the respect of his men in a critical battle and rescues an enslaved Britain, Esca; whereupon, he is given the slave for his own. He declines the offer; however, the slave insists that since Marcus saved his life, he is honor bound by the memory of his father to protect him forever. Marcus then orders Esca to accompany him on his journey to northern Britain to reclaim the eagle.
Thus, both men are compelled by honor to pursue their self-imposed tasks. And thus begins the forging of their bonding to one another. This bond will be tested many times over the course of their journey, and neither one ever completely abandons it, even during times when one is pressured to kill the other.
Interestingly, both men have been instilled with codes of honor, which sounds admirable. However, the "underbelly" of that honor is the slaughter of their fathers and kinsmen. Marcus' father and his legion were likely killed by Esca's tribesmen, but Esca's family was killed by the invading Romans.
This is reminiscent of the European invasions of the Americas in their feeling entitled to take the lands for themselves. Although the natives were seen as barbarian and cruel, history shows the "civilized" Europeans were often no better.
This film does an excellent job of showing heroism at its best and war at its worst in an entertaining and suspenseful way, such that the two main characters were able to transcend them and form a lasting bond with one another.