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The Eagle: Unrated / L'Aigle de la 9e Légion (Bilingual)
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Epic filmmaking has fallen out of favor, but The Eagle fights hard to bring it back. Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) chose to lead a Roman garrison in occupied Britain because that's where his father lost a military standard--a metal eagle, representing the glory of imperial Rome--on an expedition into the northern wilds. To reclaim his family honor, Aquila sets off into native territory to recover the eagle, with only a slave named Esca (Jamie Bell) to help him--but the more Aquila learns about Esca's history, the more he has reason to doubt his slave's loyalty. The Eagle starts with engaging momentum; this is a work of fiction, but there's an impressive commitment to the details of life, evoking the sights, sounds, and smells of a raw and brutal time. (Director Kevin Macdonald began as a documentarian, which no doubt contributes to his appreciation for grit and sweat.) Tatum is not the most versatile actor but he has enough solid charisma to anchor the movie; Bell's fluid emotional presence keeps their relationship dynamic. The movie loses steam in the last third, as the outcome is never really in doubt and the plot mechanics start to feel a bit rote. But for anyone with an interest in the era, or who simply enjoys a taste of blood and thunder, The Eagle has pleasures aplenty. --Bret Fetzer
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But that hasn't stopped writers and moviemakers from speculating about what did happen. "The Eagle" is a solid adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff's novel "The Eagle of the Ninth" -- a gritty, mud-slicked quest movie set in a time when Rome still ruled the world. Channing Tatum is a little wooden, but he's more than made up for by Jamie Bell's subtle performance.
Centurion Marcus Flavius Aquila (Tatum) is the son of the Ninth Legion's commander, and is determined to regain his family honor. But after he's horribly wounded in battle, he finds himself honorably discharged and facing a life of boredom... until he hears rumors that the Ninth Legion's golden eagle has been seen north of Hadrian's Wall. If he can get the eagle, his family's honor will be restored.
The problem is, no Roman has gone past the wall and lived to tell about it. So Aquila sets out to northern Britain, with his Briton slave Esca (Bell) as his only guide -- and quickly runs into deserters, rogue warriors, and the deadly blue-painted Seal People who helped destroy the Ninth Legion. Can they rely on each other long enough to find the golden eagle... and can they make it back to Roman land alive?
Of the three movies made about the Lost Legion in the last few years, "The Eagle" is probably the grittiest and most realistic -- there are no glorious battles, Hollywoodized Celts or Arthuriana. Instead, director Kevin Macdonald fills the movie with mud, rain, cold pale light, grimy little outposts, frenetic small battles and the spare expanses of Scotland.
And for the most part, the movie succeeds.Read more ›
My demographics: I am 57, female, professional accountant, passionate about ancient history.