Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Eagle: An endangered species

Not unlike last year’s movie Centurion, this is another take on the Legio IX Hispana legend of Roman history where an entire legion of fully armed Roman soldiers vanished behind Hadrian’s wall in the Highlands of Scotland. While Centurion was firmly a British movie however, The Eagle bears all the hallmarks of a mid-low budget U.S. production.

Mostly because of Russel Crowe’s disastrously muddled accent in Robin Hood, I counted it as a blessing that Nicholas Cage made no effort at masking his distinctive drawl in Season Of The Witch. Channing Tatum while not possessing either, thankfully still took the latter approach and adopted no such nonsense in The Eagle for portraying Marcus Aquila a newly minted officer, given command of a Roman garrison in Northern Britain. I think if the jury was out on how successful this man would become [assuming you didn’t appreciate his turn in Stop Loss] then his performance here will seal the deal, one way or another. This is firmly Tatum’s showcase for his chops and for me he doesn’t disappoint delivering not a noteworthy, but yet convincing performance of a man elevated to a heroes status only to have what he achieved taken from him. He must now prove himself and return honour to his family name by retrieving the gold eagle standard carried by and lost with the 9th Legion.

To aid him in this quest is a slave Esca [Jamie Defiance Bell], not wasted in his role to act as servant and guide to Marcus as he leads him through the glens and peaks of the Highlands, but before long we must wonder where Esca’s loyalty lies as they encounter the Picts, who are none to happy about seeing a Roman, a hated enemy in their midst. The cast is rounded off by Donald The Mechanic Sutherland phoning in a performance as Marcus' uncle and Mark Kick-Ass Strong as Guern who is strangely not a villain!!

Scottish director Kevin McDonald best known for The Last King of Scotland is sadly only a so-so director and it's evident from the excellent first act that he's capable of doing so much more for the remainder of the movie but never quite gets there. He also fails with his establishing shots and beauty shots of Scotland. We are not treated to enough representation of either the epic rugged terrain of the Highlands or the serene calm of Loch Lomand. If you're going to make a movie in Scotland - use Scotland, but this movie could have been made in a field. A missed opportunity.

Final Verdict: An interesting take on a tale we've heard before but looses pace a bit after it's very strong opening and doesn't really regain it. Worth a watch but Centurion does this all better [and has blood].

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***

1 comment:

Civilian Overseer said...

The book is brilliant, read them all as a kid, highly recommend the series.