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The Eagle

A movie directed by Kevin Macdonald

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Fine escapism; mediocre story.

  • Jul 13, 2011
**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 "The Green Hornet", which I think is just plain bad).

Now, here is a solid piece of entertainment; nothing more than entertaining, sure, but nothing less either. "The Eagle" is a well-crafted, almost relaxingly old-school sword-and-sandals mini-epic. It's nothing spectacular, although it doesn't squander much potential. When you're dealing with the Hollywood stars that you're dealing with here, you do not, at all, expect an instant classic. "The Eagle" will please some and leave others wondering why it needed to be made. I don't think it was a necessary project, but few films are. It surprised me with its presentation, its step-back from standard CGI-riddled, blood-filled action fare, and its approach to the material which it covers. I wouldn't call it intelligent or accurate enough to please historians, but those who aren't particularly snobbish might just enjoy it for the ridiculous fun of it all.

This historical action/drama takes place in 2nd Century Britain, where a Roman warrior (Channing Tatum) goes on an epic quest to recover the status of a presumably dead legion which was once led by his father. He attempts to reclaim the Eagle standard for his own legion; and on this journey, he takes along a slave (Jamie Bell).

The warrior and the slave don't have any amount of chemistry. How could they? The slave hates the warrior; the warrior looks down on the skinny, despicable slave in pity. There is no friendship between the two, and there's even an instant where the slave is willing to betray Tatum's character. The journey is like a long road; and the two men encounter Northern tribes and themselves. They learn moral lessons through the quest; and by the end, Marcus, the warrior, has learned the most.

The story is adapted from the historical novel "The Eagle of the Ninth Legion". I have never read the book, so I don't know how faithful the film actually is. I'm also no historian. So whether this film is accurate on a historical scale or not doesn't matter to me. What matters is whether this film is good or not. I really cannot say. I mean, I enjoyed myself. The film's director, Kevin Macdonald, makes sure that his film presents itself in a genuinely impressive and appealing way. It looks good, it feels good, and it plays out just as well. However, I can't shake this feeling that the product is incomplete. Sure, it had me entertained and engaged as a film existing merely as entertainment...but as a historical film, and even a mini-epic, I won't be remembering it.

Macdonald's previous directing credits include "State of Play" and "The Last King of Scotland". He brings the same flare and directorial vision over to "The Eagle", but not the same level of intelligence or grandeur. Even so, none of his films have ever been amongst my favorites; but he has done better than even the immensely decent "The Eagle".

One other thing I admired about the film was the performances. Channing Tatum is not a favorite of mine, and he will never be a favorite of mine, but this is one of his best, if not his best performance. Jamie Bell isn't quite as significant, and its Tatum who REALLY surprised me, but "The Eagle" has style, some visual whimsy, solid performances, but little substance. It is what it is; but there are better movies out now, and you should see them first. But if you must see "The Eagle", then see it. The action is energetic, the shots are rich in detail, and it's entertaining; so the experience will be neither painful nor powerful.

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More The Eagle reviews
review by . February 12, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Honor and Loyalty Is All About Choices and Stand By Those Choices....
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 …
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 . 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 …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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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