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The Eagle

A movie directed by Kevin Macdonald

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Honor and Loyalty Is All About Choices and Standing By Those Choices....

  • Feb 12, 2011

Stories about honor and courage. A lot of us have all been there. I have to admit I went to “The Eagle” with extra low expectations since I was never a fan of Channing Tatum (Fighting) but though it doesn’t say that this is a terrific film, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t horrible. Adapted from the story “The Eagle of the Ninth” (book one of Rosemary Sutclif's "Aquila Family Dolphin Ring" series), director Kevin MacDonald's film shares strong similarities with Neil Marshall’s “Centurion” last year. Both films have fictional takes about the true story of the disappearance of the Ninth Legion in the British Pict wilderness, as both films grab an actual place in history and adds its own twists and turns. While  "Centurion” attempts to bring forth a theory to this mystery, “The Eagle” mostly deals with its aftermath.

Some 20 years after a general had led the Roman army’s Ninth Legion into the wilderness of Britain and lost a treasured symbol of Roman supremacy; the Eagle, his son, Marcus (Channing Tatum) in an effort to restore his family’s honor, is now the commander of a Garrison beyond the Roman wall, is given an honorable discharge after an encounter with a Pictish tribe. Turning to a boring life, Marcus through a stroke of fate, is handed a slave called Esca (Jamie Bell), a Briton slave whose life was spared in the gladiatorial arena. Marcus, still in the hunt for the restoration of his family’s honor, hears the whereabouts of the lost Eagle through rumor and hearsay; he now returns to the open territory of Caledonia to recover his own lost symbol of redemption. Bringing along Esca as his guide and against the wishes of his uncle (Donald Sutherland), Marcus goes forth to the harsh reality that cost his father his life, and what he finds may be something he has not expected.

                            Channing Tatum in "The Eagle."

                            Channing Tatum in "The Eagle."

                           Jamie Bell in "The Eagle."

Despite the similar backdrop between “Centurion” and “The Eagle”, the two films go on very different paths in the way of narration and cinematic goals. Neil Marshall’s epic film focused more on action, brutality and was quick to raise hell through a display of blood and graphic gore. “The Eagle” is a lot more slower, and goes into the story with drama while it develops its themes of honor, redemption and brotherhood. MacDonald goes forth with its premise through the focus of introspection and shame, it concerns itself with characterization which I liked, while mustering as much PG-13 violence it could deliver.

Its themes of loyalty, brotherhood and honor are quite strong. The film goes into how some men find themselves at opposing ideologies and yet, they almost believe in the same things. Marcus and Esca are the sons of their fathers, loyal to their beliefs and is held by honor, both fathers were on opposing sides and both fathers were hell-bent on defending their countries. There are a lot of intricacies injected into the plot of “The Eagle”, the characters were quite interesting, albeit Esca was arguably the more compelling of the two. These two sons are in the place to find themselves into their own personal “faces” of honor; the next days would test their beliefs and their loyalties. I liked the way the screenplay managed to add the way these two men made their choices and how honor demands betraying something they have grown to believe in.

                            Tahar Rahim as Seal Prince in ``The Eagle.''

                           Tatum, Mark Strong and Jamie Bell in "The Eagle."

                           Channing Tatum in "The Eagle."

The character Marcus is one stoic warrior and while I liked his development, Channing Tatum was in over his head as with the power of his role. Tatum does have the appearance, but he is unskilled in pulling off a role with this much intended power. Russell Crowe made a weaker character powerful in “Gladiator”, Tatum stumbles and couldn’t find the power to grab the audience with his character. Thankfully, Jaime Bell is a strong supporting performer; no, he wasn’t perfect, but he did fit the dimensions of his role. Mark Strong was also quite good and Tahar Rahim was real good as an imbalanced tribal enemy. Despite the differences in narrative goals, both “The Eagle” and “Centurion” take on the essential elements of a chase film after the middle part of the film. It was quite bizarre, but I suppose both films had the right execution for its goals in mind.

                         Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell in "The Eagle."

                        Tahar Rahim in "The Eagle."

I know I said that this film’s focus wasn’t action or violence but there is a lot of them. The action sequences were a tad uneven, some were more intense than others while others needed more polishing. There were times that the camera stayed close to the action and other times when it used that tricky shaky camera style movement. I was a little disappointed that the fights weren’t longer and there were times that it was hard to see what exactly was going on. The film is beautifully shot. The cinematography by Anthony Dodd Mantle (AntiChrist) seems to emulate the one in “Valhalla Rising”, as the film looks grainy and gloomy to pronounce its mood and emotions.

Unfortunately, the direction and the script were very uneven; parts of the direction dragged a bit and threatened to kill the impact of its best sequences. Also, some parts felt redundant, as MacDonald seemed to overstay its welcome as themes of honor and loyalty felt shoved down my throat. It wasn’t that I didn’t care for those scenes, but they felt rather repetitive and so I felt myself become a little bored at times. It recovers from its fumbles, but MacDonald needed to keep to its forward momentum to keep its flow interesting.

There were also times when it confused its acts of heroism in the story to add some flavor to its premise. After all is said is done, honor is defined through how we choose. Both sides have honorable and culpable intentions from both sides of the wall. “The Eagle” is not a bad film, but it lacked the proper discipline and tools to make it a true success. In the end, MacDonald chose his side and it contradicts the groundwork perfectly laid out by the film. It had the proper idea, and it hungered for more, but I suppose the direction just couldn’t satisfy the film’s hungry ambition.

Timid Recommendation, Rent it First [3 Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "The Eagle"  Poster art for "The Eagle of the Ninth"

Honor and Loyalty Is All About Choices and Stand By Those Choices....

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February 15, 2012
Again, an excellent writeup is presented with fantastic action-packed pictures !
February 14, 2011
Perhaps it's because I'd be cheering for the primitive Britons to beat the hell out of the Romans, but this one just didn't grab my interest. LOL! I don't know, maybe it's also because almost every historical epic since "Gladiator" has similar choreography and plots which frankly lack the historical accuracy I crave... who knows!
February 13, 2011
I was hoping this would be better, great review WP. Also I was thinking of reviewing Centurion.
February 12, 2011
You definitely liked this movie more than I did. I felt the filmmakers were trying to apply modern-day ideals to the reality of Ancient Rome; it's a good idea, but they just didn't pull it off. I was especially disappointed with the casting of American actors as Romans and the dialogue, the latter a large part of why the ending failed to deliver. As for Jamie Bell, he gives a good performance, but his character's sudden friendship with Marcus was baseless. The only thing I could praise about this movie were the technical aspects.
February 12, 2011
I can see that. Yeah, I had huge issues with Tatum and Sutherland, but I enjoyed the way the Picts were portrayed. I do understand how you feel about Marcus and Esca's friendship, it may well be baseless save for the fact that they formed a bond because of what they went through and they saw how similar they were, as to how they cling to the memory of their fathers. This was one of those movies that I liked some of its parts but the sum total was something I found wanting. Thanks for the comment!
February 12, 2011
Excellent review as always my friend! I find the stories about the disappearance of the Ninth Legion always fascinating seeing as it is one of the darkest hours in the Roman Empires history as the whole legion just vanished into thin air never to be see again(possibly wiped out by the barbarians of Britain). But this looks like it might be an interesting film. Thanks for the heads up!
February 12, 2011
Thanks, Lopez! This was more focused on characterization and I am with you, the disappearance of the 9th Legion always draws me to a film. Something about a historical mystery that it just draws me in. Another story that also intrigues me is the story of Roanoke. Colonizers just disappearing without a trace....
February 12, 2011
oh, not to rush you or anything, I am eagerly awaiting your review on THE AMERICAN. That film is so underappreciated here and I'd like to see more positive reviews on it.
February 12, 2011
I am with you on that one a historical mystery is always much more appealing than a fictionalized one becuase it gives you the incentive to actually look up the facts of the event in question to get the whole and also allows you to use your imagination more to try and piece together the events of that time and what really happened. And I also agree that the disappearance of the garrison of men Sir Richard Grenville left at Roanoke and the second group of settlers which included 90 men, 17 women and 11 children   was baffling, they quite possible were killed by t the Croatan tribe of the Carolina Algonquiansor. Or  maybe something else happened to them something far more devious who can say. And also don't worry my review of "The American" is in the works as we speak so you won't have to wait much longer. Also no problem.
More The Eagle reviews
review by . March 17, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
The Ninth Legion needs a good map
What’s with it with the Ninth Legion? It keeps disappearing into the wilds of what now is Scotland. Once is bad enough (Centurion, which was bad enough), but twice?       The Eagle is the Ninth’s old story. The soldiers set out in 120 or so to bring some Roman peace to the Picts. They don’t come back, and neither does the Eagle standard, which means loss of honor to Rome and to the unfortunate commander of the Ninth. Twenty years later his son, Marcus (Channing …
review by . July 13, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**1/2 out of ****     I often enjoy a night at the movies where I can merely enjoy the sheer spectacle of a production rather than bask in some complex, consistent story. These experiences are much needed, as we all need a good form of escapism. However, even escapist entertainment must be well-made for me to fully enjoy it, and that's why I'm constantly disappointed by the majority of the movies that most would dismiss as, well, "escapist entertainment" (example: the recent …
review by . May 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
12A - 114mins - Adventure/Drama - 25th March 2011 Now I'm not great at working out whether this was historically accurate or not so that's not going to be affect the way I rate this new movie. I'm just going to assume that all was well unless someone cares to correct me in my ignorance? Except for the fact that thumbs up in a gladiatorial ring means kill (simulates thrusting the sword up into the body) and thumbs down means live... can't let that one slide, ever! As for whether …
review by . February 12, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Back in the early second century, the Ninth Legion disappeared from history. The current going theory is that they were wiped out in combat in the Eastern Provinces, but there’s also a theory that they were destroyed fighting the Picts in what is now called Scotland. That’s the jumping-off point for The Eagle, a rather lightweight sword and sandals film staring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell. Tatum plays Marcus Flavius Aquila, son of the commander of the Ninth Legion. He’s …
review by . February 12, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         The Eagle is such a twenty-first century movie, and this is clear not only from the casting of American actors as Ancient Romans and the easily understood dialogue, but also from the beliefs the filmmakers apply to it – beliefs that, in all likelihood, weren’t shared by the vast majority of the populace nearly 2,000 years ago. The film explores, rather simplistically, themes of inequality, ignorance, and how imperialistic viewpoints …
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About this movie


  • Opened February 11, 2011 | Runtime:1 hr. 54 min.
  • PG-13
    Battle sequences and some disturbing images
  • A Roman epic adventure, based on the classic novel of the same name, set in the dangerous world of second-century Britain. In 140 AD, twenty years after the unexplained disappearance of the entire Ninth Legion in the mountains of Scotland, young centurion Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) arrives from Rome to solve the mystery and restore the reputation of his father, the commander of the Ninth. Accompanied only by his British slave Esca (Jamie Bell) Marcus sets out across Hadrian’s Wall into the uncharted highlands of Caledonia – to confront its savage tribes, make peace with his father’s memory, and retrieve the lost legion’s golden emblem, the Eagle of the Ninth.
  • Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Mark Strong, Tahar Rahim, Donald Sutherland
  • Director: Kevin Macdonald
  • Genres: Historical EpicAction
  • Poster art for "The Eagle"
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    Director: Kevin Macdonald
    Genre: Drama
    Release Date: 11 February 2011 (USA)
    MPAA Rating: PG-13
    Runtime: 114 min
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