‘The Eagle’ is one of those movies with a great concept and a cool storyline inspired by real-life events. It just wasn’t that memorable. I’ve already sort of forgotten about it, even though I just saw it yesterday.
I’m the first to admit that military history isn’t my strong suit – even though all the guys in my family have the History Channel on 24/7. So after seeing the movie, I came home to try and decode the story.
It’s based on the historical fiction novel ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’ by Rosemary Sutcliff. If you click through that link, you’ll find Amazon reviewers raving about both the book and the author. I’ll do my best to explain the movie, but feel free to chime in by posting a comment below. That goes double for Roman history buffs.
The story is set in Roman Britain in the 2nd century AD after the building of Hadrian’s Wall, a defense fortification in northern England. It’s inspired by the mysterious disappearance of the Ninth Legion who marched north into the unknown wilds of Scotland to deal with the Caledonian tribes and were never heard from again.
Channing Tatum plays Marcus Aquila, a young Roman soldier assigned to lead a minor outpost in England some 20 years after the death of his father, who besmirched the family name after allegedly losing the Eagle, a symbol of Roman strength and importance. In the wrong hands, an Eagle could spell disgrace should it ever be marched against Rome. For this reason Romans went to great lengths to protect the Eagle, even at the cost of their lives.
While leading the outpost, Aquila is seriously wounded and returns to Italy to heal at the villa of his uncle (Donald Sutherland). Attending a deadly fight in the gladiator ring, Aquila calls for the life of a courageous slave named Esca (Jamie Bell) to be spared.
After Aquila heals, he and Esca head off on a journey north to find The Eagle and restore the Aquila family name. Of course, there are plenty of conflicts between the two, as well as the “painted people” they encounter in the wild territory.
I have a love-like relationship with this movie. I loved the authenticity of everything – the fight scenes (not too CG-heavy), the locales (it was shot in Scotland and Hungary) and the music (lovely Celtic-type tunes).
However, I just couldn’t let go of the fact that Channing Tatum seems too pretty to be a Roman soldier. He’s got a nice physique, but it’s like he threw on a costume and grabbed a shield while on Spring Break. Donald Sutherland always plays the same character in most of his roles, and all of these actors had lovely Midwestern accents, which didn’t feel right. I don’t know what accents people had in that part of the world during that era, but I’m guessing they didn’t sound like they were from South Bend, Indiana.
The bright spot here is Jamie Bell, who fits his role and has that certain “something.” He flew into the movie business with 2000’s ‘Billy Elliot,’ and you can see him next in ‘Jane Eyre’ and ‘The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,’ both scheduled for a 2011 release.
‘The Eagle’ is rated PG-13 for battle sequences and some disturbing images (which is interesting, because the book is a young adult novel).