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 this was based on a true story or not, I will leave that to the real journalists.
The Eagle is set in Roman occupied Britain in 140AD 20 years after the mysterious disappearance of the whole Ninth Legion in the glens and mountains of Scotland. It follows a Roman centurion, Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) and early on we are introduced to the fact that Marucs's father was standard bearer of the eagle for the Ninth Legion and that, when they along with the eagle, disappeared in the Scottish highlands disrepute was brought to the family of Aquila. Longing to be close to where his father disappeared and to restore his family honour, Marcus hot off the training camp for Roman centurions has requested that his first post be at the edge of the known world near Hadrian's wall, far from the choice any sane man would pick.
Eventually we are introduced to Esca (Jamie Bell) who is indebted to Marcus after having had his life saved by him and becomes his slave as penance. Together they set off to try and recover the lost eagle which forms an intriguing relationship development between the two characters as Esca is forced to obey his Roman master despite his hatred for who he is and what he stands for. This pairing results in an unpredictable plot with Esca's true intentions well hidden throughout.
The main crux of the story seems to be twofold with the development of this relationship between the two men and the desire shown by Marcus to restore the honour of his father and seek closure through the recovery of the eagle. Tatum shines in his part and you can sense the driving passion he has for his cause whilst Bell conveys his internal struggle over his split loyalties well. Other notable acting merit goes to Donald Sutherland for his bit part as the uncle of Marcus.
As a whole the battles portrayed are well choreographed and the cameras thrust you up close and personal with the warriors whilst they fight. In what seems to be a developing trend, the cameras are shaky and unsteady giving that sense you are actually there. The director Macdonald intentionally kept CGI to a minimum and it has paid off with the movie seemingly more realistic for it. The gore is not excessive and allows for the actual fighting to take centre stage rather than how red they can turn the battlefield which I liked.
The Scottish tribes play their part as a conceivable enemy during the film and speak in the native Gaelic tongue which is a nice touch that is less seen now as directors tend to swap to English after a brief dialogue to make it easier on the audience. It was also nice to see that the tribes that crossed paths with our main protagonists each had a different personality and feel about them rather than all being clumped together as Celts and getting portrayed as one generic group.
This movie although set in Roman times is less about the history and bureaucracy of Rome and more about the journey that two men take. It's a solid movie with good acting and fighting scenes but it starts to lag slightly in the middle. I wouldn't go out of my way to watch it if there were other choices available but you could do a lot worse.
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