Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Eagle

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

2011. Rated PG-13, 114 minutes.

Jamie Bell
Tahar Rahim
Denis O’Hare
Dakin Matthews
Ned Dennehy
Julian Lewis Jones

Some years earlier, his father led a group of Roman soldiers into the wilds of 2nd century Great Britain. They were never heard from again. Also lost was the gold eagle each unit takes with them into battle. Now, Marcus Flavius Aquila (Tatum) is himself a garrison commander in the Roman army. He volunteers for a tour of duty in Great Britain in hopes of recovering the eagle and/or his father. As luck would have it, he is severely injured in battle and involuntarily discharged before he even embarks on that mission. After recuperating, he and a British slave who’s life he saved venture out on their own to complete the job he came to do.

The Eagle wants to position our two buddies as having an uneasy relationship. It wants us to think that the lowly slave Esca (Bell) may not be trustworthy. However, the way things play out, we never get that feeling. That’s a major issue for a movie banking on that aspect. It saps the entire production of any tension it might have had if this angle had been better executed. We never feel that our hero is in any serious danger. Even when things seem most bleak we know that his sidekick is merely biding his time.

Our hero is also problematic. Part of this is due to star Channing Tatum and part to the way his part is written. It seems the writers couldn’t make up their mind how great a soldier he is, or isn’t. The same goes for his fluctuating intelligence. He’s smart or dumb depending on what the plot requires at any given moment. It’s much the same for his soldiering skills. For instance, there’s a moment early on where the very faint sound of his enemies wakes him from a dead sleep. Presumably, his quarters are a ways from the fort wall from beyond which the noise is coming. In fact, no one standing guard on the wall itself hears anything. Initially, I’ve no problem with this. It helps establish him as a superior combatant. However, later on he can’t hear or see more enemies only a few feet away when he is on his own with Esca in the middle of the woods and should be at his most alert. It’s a frustrating about face in character. As for Tatum, I just couldn’t buy him as an Ancient Roman commander with a burning passion for recovering a symbolic bird in an effort to clear his family name. I harbor no hatred for Tatum. If you’re movie is set during contemporary times with a suburban/pseudo urban setting and your lead has to be a white guy with a solid street vibe about him, he’s your guy. As a leader of men during the sword and sandal days, not so much.

There are solid and bloody fight scenes so The Eagle isn’t a total loss. However, the dreadfully serious tone combined with a lack of tension means the movie fails to engage us. We’re not particularly enthralled with this man’s quest. Therefore, the movie trudges past on its way to the inevitable ending with precious little in the way of humor or fun.

MY SCORE: 5/10

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