Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Kevin Macdonald

Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Tahar Rahim.

Kevin Macdonald’s sword and toga saga ventures into similar territory as the recent bloodthirsty Centurion. Based on the 1954 Boys’ Own adventure novel written by Rosemary Sutcliffe, The Eagle is set in Roman occupied Britain in 140AD.

Twenty years before, the legendary Ninth Legion of nearly 5,000 men disappeared without a trace after marching into hostile territory in Scotland. Now Marcus Aqila (Channing Tatum), the son of the legion’s leader has come to Britain to take up command of the same remote outpost his father commanded. But after a battle against the fierce Picts leaves him severely wounded he is honourably discharged from the army, and sent to the villa of his uncle (Donald Sutherland) to recover.

With his slave Esca (Jamie Bell, from Billy Elliot, etc), whose loyalties he is unsure of, Marcus sets out into the hostile territory beyond Hadrian’s Wall in search of the legion’s lost banner. He also wants to try and discover what happened to his father and restore honour to the legion.

Oscar winning director Macdonald comes from a documentary background (One Day In September, etc), and he brings a documentary like realism to the material, much as he did for The Last King Of Scotland. He eschews the use of CGI in the major battle scenes, which are quite bloody and savage. But he has also shot them in the kinetic and chaotic style preferred by most of today’s younger film makers that makes it almost impossible to follow.

The crux of the film though is the relationship that slowly develops between Marcus and Esca, a friendship that goes beyond master and slave. Tatum gets a chance to flex his muscles as the capable action hero here. Bell brings a stoic quality to his performance. Tahar Rahim (from the tough French prison drama A Prophet) plays the leader of the savage Seal People, a primitive and ferocious tribe in the northern region of Scotland.

The film was shot on location in Scotland and Hungary, which lend a bleak and forbidding atmosphere to the locations. Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography is good and captures these vistas well. There’s certainly plenty of action in The Eagle, and it is enough to temporarily distract from the gaping holes in the script from Jeremy Brock, who also wrote the Last King Of Scotland for Macdonald.




Speak Your Mind