Star Rating: 2/5
Since Gladiator, there have been many classical-era or medieval based films. All have tried to repeat the success of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece and most of them, if not all of them, have failed. For those who like the genre, The Eagle might be quite an entertaining movie. But like King Arthur, The Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood, it is not in the same league as Gladiator.
The Eagleis based in Roman Britain in 140 AD. In 120 AD, the Ninth legion, led by Flavius Aquila, lost the eagle, a military insignia of Roman rule, during an invasion north of Hadrian’s Wall (modern-day Scotland). The legion disappeared without trace as did the eagle. Twenty years later, Marcus Flavius Aquila (Channing Tatum – Step Up 2: The Streets, Dear John, 21 Jump Street), the son of Flavius, is a commander of Roman soldiers in England until he is given an honourable discharge due to wounds sustained in battle.
Whilst staying at the villa of his uncle Aquila (Donald Sutherland – The Italian Job, Pride & Prejudice, The Hunger Games), Marcus hears a rumour that the eagle has been seen north of the wall and is with the blue-faced Seal tribe. Despite his uncle’s warnings that no Roman can survive north of the wall, Marcus is determined to find the eagle and resurrect his family name. Taking his slave, Esca (Jamie Bell – Billy Elliot, Flags of Our Fathers, Defiance), Marcus travels north, entering unchartered and highly dangerous territory.
The storyline is pretty standard. It moves at quite a fast pace without any surprises. Similarly, the acting is distinctly average and all the characters are rigidly two-dimensional. The dialogue has several clichés too without being laughably bad. At least The Eagle depicts the cruelty of the age; particularly with regard to the (evil) Seal tribe. The fighting scenes are also quite well done and enjoyable, plus have a (vague) resemblance to the tactics Romans once used in battle. (Nevertheless, in comparison to the first scene in Gladiator or even in the much-maligned Troy, they are poverty-struck.)
Otherwise, not much of the spirit of Rome, and what the empire stood for at the time, is captured in this movie; save for the elites having slaves and living in fancy villas. Moreover, the choreography of the film is not great as scenes do not slot in nicely one after the other.
Also, the director, Kevin Macdonald (State of Play, The Last King of Scotland), has let his viewers down vis-à-vis the cinematography. Scotland has many picturesque sights that Macdonald could have chosen; yet, the landscapes adopted throughout the film do not look remotely awe-inspiring. Rather, they look like a background screen of any old scenery.
In short, The Eagle might be enjoyable for classical-era movie lovers; but it is nonetheless a poor film in more or less all respects. Thus, eleven years since its release it still looks like Gladiator has no rival.
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