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I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The CGI effects seem to have been kept
under control, and so the film turned out to be more human than
animation. The combat scenes were done in the current style of quick
cuts where you just get a vague idea of what is going on, rather than
actually being able to follow the blows being struck.
The film seemed mostly faithful to Roman history. It gives a vivid illustration of why Hadrian's wall was built. But I am not totally sure the Roman Senate had a "branch" in Britain.
The two leads (Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell) were perfectly suited to their roles, kind of like Hercules and his sidekick from 60s historical adventure films. But minus the corny jokes. There were no banquets with production numbers. And there was no "love interest" written in. And no magical effects or mythical creatures. And it was very easy to follow. And hugely entertaining.
It's not art but it's rather good, regardless.
I went into this movie not knowing what to expect, and in the end I was
rather pleased with it. Beautiful cinematography, great fight scenes,
an interesting story . . . The movie also pays incredible attention to
detail and is not afraid of a little dirt; one small thing that stood
out to me is when they're eating dinner at the uncle's house, and it's
kind of dark in there. Movies are always trying to convince us that a
few candles light a house just as well as modern electric lights, but
this one reminds us that no, they're candles. It's little things like
that I found compelling: the characters acquire dirt and grime as they
travel, the costumes and buildings are quite detailed, the Britons up
in the north speak Gaelic and nothing but Gaelic. Often in movies with
foreign languages, the characters will speak that foreign language for
a few lines then switch into English. But the Britons keep up their
Gaelic, and they speak it smoothly and fluently, too.
I really liked Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell, too. Tatum seems to be trying to speak very properly and it's rather odd, but he's good as a stoic young man who wants to be honorable and is tired of spending his entire life being chastised for a mistake that he did not make. Jamie Bell is rather fantastic as the slave who has every reason to hate Rome except for his growing respect for his Roman master; he's unpredictable and tortured and terribly interesting to watch.
It's not a perfect movie--sometimes I wasn't sure that it knew what message it was trying to convey--but generally I liked it. I will probably purchase it when it comes out.
The movie has a fairly good opening in my opinion, a rather dull middle
and a predictable ending.
The problem with it for me is the same problem I'm seeing with a lot of the new action films. The cameras stays very tight, action is all blurred and close up, so you can't see what's going on. The sound track is all keyed up so you won't be concentrating on the errors in the action. (Which you can't really see anyway) Golly, give me the days of good stuntmen back again.
I liked the opening half hour or so, but the middle is so much like a North American Indian film you lose all sense of the time period. I agree with the former reviewers comments, Gee, if the Britains lived like this why bother with them.
I prefer the mini-series "Rome" to this any day.
The theater chains are also destroying the movie going experience as I have to agonize over 15 minutes of commercials before the main feature starts.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Eagle wasn't desperate or overly ambitious it was exactly what
you'd want from a tale of friendship and adventure! I'd been prepared
for a ten minute opening montage educating us on the socio-political
climate of Roman-occupied Britain, but I was pleasantly surprised with
the character focused introduction. I know it's a little unaware, but I
didn't go see this movie for historical accuracy, or to be being
preached to about the triumphs of the human spirit. It's a very simple
story, but epic in its presentation. You get swept into their journey
to find the lost Eagle and restore honor to Marcus's family. There are
several graphic (but never gory) battles, and a memorable relationship
evolving through the movie.
The casting was on the money; it was a treat to see O'Hare (Russell Edgington from True Blood), and Sutherland as Marcus's caring uncle. This is undoubtedly Channing's best work he is completely believable as a leader but not infallible as we find out early in the movie when he is injured. Jamie Bell was brilliant as Esca; he has a lovely tortured look about him, with just a hint of unpredictability that makes him seem dangerous. I won't give it away but he has multiple reasons to want Marcus dead, which makes their friendship so compelling.
As for the (apparently huge) Bromance issue, it's made even more obvious by the absence of a female lead, which I'm fine with. If there isn't a well developed female character, then I'm grateful we were spared the token hot-girl who contributes absolutely nothing to the plot (other than to offset any male bonding that goes down later in the movie). The Eagle didn't need that; sexuality was never a character driving theme. There's definitely love and respect between Marcus and Esca, but don't expect them to have any chick flick moments. I only say this because some of the more clumsy interviewers have been harping on it, and it's tacky. Obviously if Channing and Bell ever did do a gay themed movie, I'd be thrilled/elated/first in line, but I'm not calling gay every time I see two guys next to each other having emotions. I guess people are going to see what they want to see they're both really good looking guys risking their lives for each other, I get it.
At the end of the day, the only thing I found lacking were parts of the dialogue, especially in the beginning. That's just nit-picking though. The Eagle was leagues above movies like Troy and Alexander in terms of heart, however don't go in expecting Gladiator-esque material. It may as well have been a classic sports flick, and the Eagle their Superbowl trophy there's something distinctly American about it. You will however end up caring about the characters, which to me, makes a movie worth watching.
I thoroughly enjoyed Rosemary Sutcliff's adventure novel and I felt
this movie was true to the book, with a few changes that actually made
the story better.
First off, Sutcliff wrote a book for teen readers and the movie was done in such a way that I felt comfortable bringing my teenage son to see it. There was violence, owing to the times, but not graphic like most movies these days. In fact, people were killed or executed with most of the gory parts off screen or to the side so you didn't see the actual act. There was no sex or nudity, which for me is a nice change when I want to see a feature film for the story and not have these scenes thrown in for that type of audience.
The story is an intelligent historical adventure bringing the viewer into an unknown world in Northern Scotland. It depicts accurately the relation between the conquering Romans and their subjugated Brittons and Celts. We see Roman period soldiers accurately represented and native Picts as they may have been (without many historical records to verify their way of life).
The movie is also about a friendship that builds between two men from opposite sides of the conflict and the bonds that build despite their differences in culture. There are lots of battles, beautiful scenery, and excitement.
The movie follows Sutcliff's hunt for the 9th Legion Eagle, lost beyond Hadrian's Wall in the the mysterious land of the Picts, ruthless tribes of barbarians in present day Scotland. Despite some recent evidence that the 9th Legion was never destroyed in Scotland, the story is captivating and despite being fiction has a real authentic feel.
I loved this movie and hope for more like it. 10/10
The latest modern film to play swords-and-sandals dress-up is "The
Eagle," starring Channing "Pretty Boy" Tatum, a name I bestowed upon
him having played "Pretty Boy" Floyd in Michael Mann's "Public Enemies"
back in 2008, albeit a part of no significance. I suppose when they
coined the term "hunk," no one expected it to apply so literally to the
thick and broad-shouldered 30-year-old.
Tatum plays Marcus Flavius-Flave Aquila (okay, just Flavius), Roman centurion and son of a disgraced commander who disappeared along with the entire Ninth Legion and Rome's beloved eagle standard in the north of Britain in 120 AD. Fast forward 20 years and son has chosen to be posted in Britain in hopes of gaining back his, his father and Rome's honor by discovering the fate of the legion and recovering the eagle. For Tatum, this trip into dangerous territory beyond Hadrian's Wall, as it turns out, is also a test of leading man meddle.
Heading up the real American heroes of "G.I. Joe" doesn't exactly count for star capability, and while "The Eagle" barely holds a candle to the Roman epic of all Roman epics that is "Gladiator," it certainly can be seen as a more serious step and one in which the target audience has no interest in ogling him -- just watching him kill rebellious "Seal Men," (precursors to Scots).
Tatum's grades are definitely passing, but he earns more sympathy than attention. He's not quite a commanding presence, but Jeremy Brock's script doesn't exactly show us anything about him other than he feels disgraced and he's a good soldier. Flashbacks and dreams about his father riding off never to be seen again are hardly adequate ways to build a hero who can rally our spirits. He can throw down with the best of them, but he's better stoic.
For the most part, "The Eagle" follows suit. Kevin Macdonald, a versatile and underrated director who has an Academy Award for Best Documentary and also directed Forest Whitaker to his "Last King of Scotland" Oscar, keeps the action moving and more old school -- old school being the days before CGI. The fight in the beginning all the way to the journey beyond the wall and the perils he faces excite and hold attention. For an epic film that places honor and friendship at the center, the stakes just never feel high enough. You'll make an investment in hoping for a peaceful ending, but nothing stirs beyond that.
The film tries to create several dynamics such as Marcus' daddy issues and the relationship between Marcus and Esca (Jamie Bell), his servant whose life he saved, who over the wall could betray him at any moment, but little doubt seeps in. After all, while Esca's a tough and resilient guy, he was once Billy Elliot -- he's probably not screwing anyone over. Actually, Bell's performance hurts Tatum's when all is said and done; he's much more unpredictable.
Roman history nuts will find little to enjoy from that perspective with "The Eagle" as political undertones are practically non-existent and you have Americans playing Romans and Brits playing savage Brits. Brock's script sticks to the action and compelling events, using a historical period to create a tone, much in the way "300" did. Appropriately adjusting expectations for "The Eagle" to this level will help it retain the honor it deserves for capturing 120 minutes worth of interest with eventful action sequences.
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The Eagle is directed by Kevin Macdonald and adapted to screenplay by
Jeremy Brock from the book The Eagle of the Ninth written by Rosemary
Sutcliff. It stars Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Tahar
Rahim and Mark Strong. Music is scored by Atli Örvarsson and
cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle.
In 120 AD, The Roman Ninth Legion marched into Caledonia, they, along with their precious Golden Eagle standard, were never seen again. 20 years later and Marcus Flavius Aquila (Tatum) arrives in Britain to serve as a garrison commander. He carries a burden, though, for the Ninth Legion was led by his father. It is perhaps his destiny that he go forth into Caledonia to maybe solve the mystery and restore honour to the family name?
Better angry than dead.
A film of two different, but equally enjoyable, halves, The Eagle is a delightful throw back to the swords and shields movies of old. All things are in place for a rollicking tale of courage, friendship and honour, and the film mostly delivers on its premise. First half is all about character introduction and motives required for plotting. We get some clanking sword play and splendid synchronised army manoeuvres as a garrison defence unfolds. Great to report that CGI and digital blood are not dominating proceedings, this is very human, even if the editing is of the whippy kind. A turn of events then sees Marcus come by way of Bell's slave, incidents are defined and we then move into the second half of the picture.
Life, life, LIFE!
Here is where the film becomes a character piece as two men from different walks of life, enemies with anger and determination gnawing away at their souls, traverse the magnificent Scottish Highlands (Dod Mantle's photography is breath taking at times) to solve the mystery of The Ninth. What follows is an invigorating olde world adventure where mistrust, redemption and unknown tribes reside. Dialogue stays sharp and Macdonald never lest the pace sag. There's a pleasant adherence to period flavourings, with the Romans and their foes given an intelligent make over by the writer, while it's really refreshing to find there isn't a token female love interest jimmied into the story.
Film, perhaps inevitably given the modest budget and expectations afforded it, is far from flawless, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to understand just what the modern audience, or indeed old classics movie fans, expect of a genre film such as this? The churlish decry the casting of American Tatum in the lead, but what he lacks in actual depth of talent is more than compensated for by him knowing how to make the role of Marcus work. With impressive physicality and square jawed machismo, he cuts a splendid rugged figure, he also knows how to brood, essential for any stoic hero stung by a slur on his family name. Bell slots in nicely as the weak of body but strong of mind slave, Esca, the unrecognisable Rahim scores very well as a warrior tribesman, while the technical touches within the picture (including Örvarsson's score) are genre compliant.
Sutherland's casting is odd, and Mark Strong is badly wasted, and the ending, whilst satisfactory, is not as grandiose as it should be. The latter more galling given the one they rejected, that's available in the extras on the DVD, would have closed the film down far better. Yet this is a far better film than its box office take and internet ratings suggests it is. The days of magnificent historical epics and eye dazzling choreographed sword fights sadly look a long way off now. That doesn't mean that fans of such films have to accept any genre offering that comes their way, for example such as Neil Marshall's very uneven Centurion, but something like the smaller scale treats of The Eagle deserve our support. 7.5/10
"The Eagle" is another fine film in the sword-and-sandal genre. It has
great action sequences, some fine heroic traits like bravery and
courage, and great performances by Channing Tatum (surprisingly), Jamie
Bell, Donald Sutherland and other good supporting players. It is
history and fiction, yet it is rousing in every sense.
No, it is not as excellent and violent/bloody as "Gladiator". Everyone is quick to make comparisons. But it is still very good, and for a PG-13 movie, it has quite some bloody scenes, as a very stark and bleak atmosphere throughout, with a strong sense of unpredictability running throughout the film thanks to very talented director Kevin Macdonald. This is one of the movie's strongest points, proving that simplicity is the key to making some great moments in the film. It brings you into the movie, taking you on a ride through 140 A.D. Scotland as it really should be.
My only gripe is that some of the action sequences have shaky-camera to it, making a few of the action sequences unfocused, but I think, this time, that shaky camera makes sense because it adds to the chaotic sense during that period, where no one is really sure how to battle in that situation, adding to the unpredictability. The pace is moderate, taking the time to develop Tatum and Bell's characters, and the editing is fluid, nicely putting the scenes together. Atli Ovarsson, too, knows when and where to put his music through, allowing the film's more effective moments to shine through with or without the music.
The script is not exactly new but there are some nice twists given to it. The bonding between the Roman and his Briton slave never really goes beyond that to buddy-comedy mode, but there are scenes of mutual respect shown towards each other in a very realistic fashion. Both Tatum and Bell, showing subtle but good chemistry, are great in their roles, I'm especially surprised at Tatum's good performance, as he has proved that he has the acting chops to go along with his good looks. He isn't playing the fool.
Macdonald skillfully directs the film using the traits above and more with focus and attention, using real stunt-men/extras and real locations without a hint of CGI involved, adding even more points to the raw realism of the film. Of course, seeing Macdonald's documentary background, it comes to no surprise that the film has a very realistic feel to it. The bleak atmosphere, gritty but fantastic production and costume design, beautiful cinematography (by "Slumdog Millionaire's" Anthony Dod Mantle, no doubt), and amazing music by Ovarsson (this is his first score which I actually liked) all combine together with Macdonald and cast and crew to deliver a solid, somewhat spectacular action adventure that is old- fashioned and devoid of the usual clichés (there's no generic romantic subplot, thank God!) that seem to plague this film genre lately.
Made in the hands of another, lesser director, this film will probably end up looking like "The Last Legion" or "Centurion", probably overblown and over-stylized. Not here. Kevin Macdonald knows when to put in the bloody scenes, when to put in the music, and that simplicity is best when it comes to everything. This is terrific entertainment made even better by a director who knows what he is doing, and another fine addition to the sword-and-sandal genre.
They don't make them like they use to anymore.
Overall rating: 74/100
Now I'm not great at working out whether this was historically accurate
or not so that's not going to be affect the way I rate this movie. I'm
just going to assume that all was well unless someone cares to correct
me in my ignorance? Except for the fact that thumbs up in a
gladiatorial ring means kill (simulates thrusting the sword up into the
body) and thumbs down means live... can't let that one slide, ever! As
for whether this was based on a true story or not, I will leave that to
the real journalists.
The Eagle is set in Roman occupied Britain in 140AD 20 years after the mysterious disappearance of the whole Ninth Legion in the glens and mountains of Scotland. It follows a Roman centurion, Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) and early on we are introduced to the fact that Marucs's father was standard bearer of the eagle for the Ninth Legion and that, when they along with the eagle, disappeared in the Scottish highlands disrepute was brought to the family of Aquila. Longing to be close to where his father disappeared and to restore his family honour, Marcus hot off the training camp for Roman centurions has requested that his first post be at the edge of the known world near Hadrian's wall, far from the choice any sane man would pick.
Eventually we are introduced to Esca (Jamie Bell) who is indebted to Marcus after having had his life saved by him and becomes his slave as penance. Together they set off to try and recover the lost eagle which forms an intriguing relationship development between the two characters as Esca is forced to obey his Roman master despite his hatred for who he is and what he stands for. This pairing results in an unpredictable plot with Esca's true intentions well hidden throughout.
The main crux of the story seems to be twofold with the development of this relationship between the two men and the desire shown by Marcus to restore the honour of his father and seek closure through the recovery of the eagle. Tatum shines in his part and you can sense the driving passion he has for his cause whilst Bell conveys his internal struggle over his split loyalties well. Other notable acting merit goes to Donald Sutherland for his bit part as the uncle of Marcus.
As a whole the battles portrayed are well choreographed and the cameras thrust you up close and personal with the warriors whilst they fight. In what seems to be a developing trend, the cameras are shaky and unsteady giving that sense you are actually there. The director Macdonald intentionally kept CGI to a minimum and it has paid off with the movie seemingly more realistic for it. The gore is not excessive and allows for the actual fighting to take centre stage rather than how red they can turn the battlefield which I liked.
The Scottish tribes play their part as a conceivable enemy during the film and speak in the native Gaelic tongue which is a nice touch that is less seen now as directors tend to swap to English after a brief dialogue to make it easier on the audience. It was also nice to see that the tribes that crossed paths with our main protagonists each had a different personality and feel about them rather than all being clumped together as Celts and getting portrayed as one generic group.
This movie although set in Roman times is less about the history and bureaucracy of Rome and more about the journey that two men take. It's a solid movie with good acting and fighting scenes but it starts to lag slightly in the middle. I wouldn't go out of my way to watch it if there were other choices available but you could do a lot worse.
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I guess stories about Centurions and Legionaries never go out of
fashion along with its themes of valour, honour, camaraderie and the
likes, and The Eagle adapts from the book The Eagle of the Ninth
written by Rosemary Sutcliff published about a half century ago, set in
the 2nd Century just after Hadrian's Wall went up in Britain. I suppose
given director's Kevin Macdonald's success with yet another
historically based drama The Last King of Scotland that he decides to
take another crack at it, albeit this time with a little bit more
swords and sandals violence.
In recent years we've already seen a number of such films with the likes of Neil Marshall's Centurion and The Last Legion starring Colin Firth and Aishwarya Rai, but this one had a little narrative boost with its historical reference involving the mysterious disappearance of the Ninth Legion weaved into the narrative and forming the back story of its protagonist Marcus Flavius Aquila (Channing Tatum), who had asked for the Britain post in order to seek the lost honour of his father, leader of the Ninth who had reputedly surrendered cowardly to the enemy.
For starters, Channing Tatum isn't really your character actor, but looked totally in place with brawn over brains leading his men into battle and convincing peers that his family name isn't as tainted as it should be. But for a moment of bravado he gets himself injured and discharged honourably, living at his uncle's place until word came that the eagle standard of the 9th Legion had been found to be in the hands of some indigenous tribe outside of their safe haven. To lead a team into hostile territory will be suicide, but Marcus seeks out that sole opportunity to reclaim his father's name, and coming in tow is the slave Esca (Jamie Bell) with whom he forms a love-hate relationship.
It's a standard action adventure where you put together two misfits who are as serious as can be in seeking out the objective of their quest, containing all the usual formation of a strong friendship cliché made more difficult when the master-slave role got reversed when they're held captive. And you also can't put aside some of the homoerotic undertones between the two men in Batman and Robin fashion, with constant longing gazes at times reflective of threats to get back at each other given the flip=flopping master-slave roles they have to play. The screenplay by Jeremy Brock chooses to focus primarily on the friendship of the men, putting aside the politics of the occasion other than to paint the politicians and bureaucrats as fat cats who talk a lot and sit on their bums.
The battle sequences though were a different cup of tea altogether, with Kevin Macdonald opting for very a very visual treatment that didn't flinch from the bloodier and gorier aspects of close combat. Rarely do you see a decapitation happen on screen, but The Eagle does just that without cutting away. Sure it's movie magic, but the effect is nothing but startling, in addition to slit throats and dismembered limbs. If you're craving for standard period action- adventure fare, then The Eagle will be that film for you this weekend. Look out for that Mark Strong cameo.
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