The Eagle (12A)

Film

Period and swashbuckler films

The Eagle.jpg

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Mar 22 2011

It’s hard to think of a homegrown director with a more unpredictable career path than Kevin Macdonald. From documentaries on terrorism, mountaineering and, in 2012, Bob Marley to intense dramas like ‘The Last King of Scotland’ and slick Hollywood fare like ‘State of Play’, Macdonald seems intent on wrongfooting audiences at every turn. He’ll release two wholly contradictory new films in the first half of 2011 alone: ‘Life in a Day’, due in May, is a globetrotting street-level documentary sourced entirely from YouTube clips. But first there’s ‘The Eagle’, a stately Roman-era epic which is nothing less than a John Ford movie in battered sandals, with dashes of Kurosawa and ‘Apocalypse Now’ thrown in for good measure. At times bracingly taut, at others frustratingly flat, but always visually breathtaking, this is the boldest, most unlikely film of Macdonald’s career so far.

The story, adapted from Rosemary Sutcliff’s rip-roaring kids’ novel ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’, follows patriotic Centurion Marcus (Channing Tatum) and his scrappy Celtic slave Esca (Jamie Bell) north of Hadrian’s wall to retrieve the Eagle, the standard of the lost Ninth Legion.
The world they find is untouched by civilisation, a lawless tribal wasteland far from Rome’s comforts.  For 100 minutes, this is near-flawless: the adaptation is smart, the performances are solid and the decision to cast American actors as Roman occupiers is thematically as well as economically astute. Best of all is Anthony Dod Mantle’s breathtaking photography: the Scottish Highlands have never looked so eerily, threateningly beautiful. So it’s frustrating that Macdonald can’t sustain the momentum: in the last act, ‘The Eagle’ simply falls to pieces, abandoning narrative drive in favour of a weak, would-be rousing climactic setpiece, a limp finale to what could have been one of the year’s best British movies.
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Release details

Rated:

12A

UK release:

Wed Mar 23, 2011

Duration:

114 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

2.7 / 5

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  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|9
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John Cooper

Historical authenticity and impressive cinematography make this film eminently watchable. The male bonding between Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell takes a bit of swallowing, but fortunately the film provides the right zeitgeist for the 2nd century and we give them the benefit of the doubt. The battle scenes are impressive, although this modern obsession with millisecond editing is irritating, and unnecessary as Channing Tatum is clearly a skilled swordsman . . .Modern films can make wimps look like Olympic athletes with the clever editing . and here it's not necessary . . . . Make up and costume for the Romans and Celts is terrific, and the realistic protrayal of both cultures is impressive .. . . However there is a lack of complexity and psychological depth, along with weaknesses in the the plot which stops this being a classic . . . .Enjoyable, nonetheless.

Mike

Having sat through Channing Tatum’s last film “Dear John� with a sick bag to hand, I was surprised to find “The Eagle� not quite so bad. . I like the way “Marsellus� (below) categorises this film as “swords and sandals�. Two classic “swords and sandals� have been “Ben Hur� which won 11 Oscars, and “Gladiator� which won 5. When I saw the trailer for “The Eagle� I wondered whether it might be a play on the commander/gladiator/slave storyline of “Gladiator�. “The Eagle� is not in the same league as “Ben Hur� or “Gladiator� – the script and storyline are poor by comparison to both those films. And I couldn’t see the beautiful photography – yes, some of the shots of the Highlands were good, but nothing to write home about, they’re what you’d expect of a film set in this period. Channing Tatum may look good but isn’t a particularly good actor – some of the scenes are leaden and unconvincing. The star of the film has to be Jamie Bell, who’s a great actor and without whom this film would have been rated much differently. Like “Marsellus�, I’m giving this 2 stars – it won’t win Oscars. Fairly forgettable stuff.

Phil Ince

The dialogue's a bit blunt and the parts seem undercharacterised but I thought Channing Tatum was well-cast and convincing. Jamie Bell's character never really explains himself and the film lacks any real moral dilemma. Enjoyable but often unbelievable in the Scottish sections - Jamie Bell's character seems to know every square foot of the whole of Scotland and Tatum's character, lying wounded for hours in a river gets up and leads a sword fight etc. The Celtic kid with the short back and sides when his less fashionable family are more or less wearing only mud is a bit of laugh. But, an enjoyable, rousing film with a sweet turn from Donald Sutherland.

ed

I was equally baffled at the badly judged ending.... But on the whole enjoyed this very predicatable, well alloyed sword & sandal epic... Probably the most "Hollywood" British flick I've seen ever.. Nice all round performances (some shonky dialogue), inspired casting (TAHAR RAHIM from A PROPHET as main villain), great locales....

Marsellus

I like the odd bit of sword and sandals epics or period action films like Kingdom of Heaven or Gladiator but this film falls far short of the two aforementioned films. The concept is good (it's as if The Defiant Ones has been crossed with Centurion), the visuals are great and the fight scenes are handled well - but the dialogue is awful. What an absolutely appalling script. The last scene of the film runs like the ending to a buddy-cop film. A strange, yet interesting, film that would have worked better with an improved script and perhaps a better lead actor.

Alex

Saw this last night and was very impressed. It's an intense, rollicking, old-fashioned boys' adventure film (with more than a touch of 'Last of the Mohicans'), beautifully filmed with a real visual authenticity. The film also draws parallels between the colonisation/occupation under the Roman Empire, and some more recent conflicts, but without labouring the point. Channing Tatum is, sadly, not a great actor, but has an imposing physical presence which carries him through, and a great partner in Jamie Bell. Definitely one to see, and on the largest possible screen!

MovieFan

I saw this movie in Amsterdam two weeks ago. What impressed me most was the breathtakingly beautiful scenery. The story itself was just OK but the acting by the leading actor left much to be desired. Another young American actor who can act like a Ryan Gosling or a Ben Forster for example might just help to lift this movie to a much higher level. But casting a hunky and dishy someone who can't really act has spoiled it for serious movie fans as far I am concerned.

Anthony

Good to see you listing this (as of course you would in your excellent guide to all things London!) but please please can you get your entry right: Rosemary Sutcliff (sic) is spelt without an E. See www.rosemarysutcliff.com for others who have got this equally wrong, and for much more about the film, the book, and the author. The film is excellent, although I might be judged to have an 'interest', for I am a relative of Rosemary Sutcliff. Also, Rosemary Sutcliff said she wrote for all children aged 8 to 88 .... so The Eagle of the Ninth (a classic of both children's literature and historical fiction) is maybe somewhat more generally read than the phrase a 'kids' novel' implies? You will know, but readers may not that Time Out New York was very keen on the film, which came out last month in the USA. They said “You’ll gladly enslave yourself to Kevin Macdonald’s rollicking sword-and-sandal epic� which is “a beautifully executed piece of pulp fiction�!

Anthony

Good to see you listing this (as of course you would in your excellent guide to all things London!) but please please can you get your entry right: Rosemary Sutcliff (sic) is spelt without an E. See www.rosemarysutcliff.com for others who have got this equally wrong, and for much more about the film, the book, and the author. The film is excellent, although I might be judged to have an 'interest', for I am a relative of Rosemary Sutcliff. Also, Rosemary Sutcliff said she wrote for all children aged 8 to 88 .... so The Eagle of the Ninth (a classic of both children's literature and historical fiction) is maybe somewhat more generally read than the phrase a 'kids' novel' implies? You will know, but readers may not that Time Out New York was very keen on the film, which came out last month in the USA. They said “You’ll gladly enslave yourself to Kevin Macdonald’s rollicking sword-and-sandal epic� which is “a beautifully executed piece of pulp fiction�!