Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Denis O’ Hare, Julian Lewis Jones, Douglas Henshaw

Director: Kevin McDonald

Writer(s): Jeremy Brock, Rosemary Sutcliff (novel)

Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle

Original Score: Atli Ovarsson

Running Time: 114 Mins.

The trend for gritty historical romps set in Britain is seemingly alive and well in producers minds…if not repeated for audiences. These are (usually) costly to make and epic in scale, meaning a big box-office recoup necessary to at least break even, which may explain why the latest in this particular niche genre are smaller in both budget and scale, if not in ambition, in the last year alone we have seen Ironclad and Centurion and now The Eagle, the latter two both dealing with the same issue and jumping-off point though the approach is wildly different.

Where centurion concerned itself with being brutal, bloody and stuffed with testosterone (hallmarks of a Neil Marshall film) The Eagle is a more “serious” affair with no humour and a romping nature that makes it more appealing for 12 year boys seeking swordplay and a central relationship adding a little bromance (read, male bonding) for those wanting a bit more emotion in their boys own adventures. Neither of these facets make The Eagle poor, in fact it is all the better for it and despite the toned down blood and guts there are still more than enough limbs lopped off to attract gore-hounds or those liking a little more brutality in their violence than say…Robin Hood.

The main thrust of the plot is that Roman, Marcus Aquila (Tatum)seeks to redeem his fathers name by finding the  seal (the titular Eagle) that was lost when the 5000 strong troop was massacred and never found deep in the Scottish Highlands, accompanying Marcus is a slave (Bell) named Esca who’s allegiances are always at odds with his actions. Both actors are on fine form though while fine form for Bell is excellent the same cannot be said of Tatum, he is good, stoic and heroic but there is no humour or warmth there, he is a soldier plain and simple, whether this is all was required of him is up for discussion but never-the-less he is a commanding presence and in early scenes (that hint at an all to familiar film) he is convincing leading a Roman Garrison into battle, for the part we could ask little more.

It is this shift in gear that helps mark out The Eagle as different, yes it hits the beats you expect (cheesy “big” statement moments, characters sudden switch of allegiance, the Na’vi like “savages”) but the balance between character led drama (between Bell and Tatum) convinces and is paced well enough amidst the small-scale but always gripping action scenes. That said however it isn’t anything we’ve not seen done before…and better, characters liberally ripped from Gladiator, Braveheart and any other number of films and Tatum really isn’t skilled enough to mark his Marcus any different from any other depiction of a Roman legionary.

Where the film impresses more is in the direction, having already said the pacing is spot-on so to is the fantastic direction from McDonald who can evidently turn his hand to a number of genres (documentary, drama, thriller) adding historical (not so) epic to that, his dynamic approach along with Dod Mantle’s sumptuous cinematography means that The Eagle is, if nothing else, a feast for the eyes.

VERDICT

The Eagle is nothing new, other than it is a little more intimate for a Historical epic than you may well expect, however convincing central pair and some great direction and cinematography mark this out as well worth a watch for both teenage boys and anyone who likes a quality (if not out-standing) romp through Roman Britain.



 

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