Published Feb 03, 2011Because The Eagle is so boring, humourless and, let's face it, stupid, it's hard not to spend the two-hour running time thinking of possible alternate titles like Capture the Flag: The Movie or Honour and the Infinite Blandness of Channing Tatum. Truly, the titular eagle is like the flag in the popular schoolyard game and they say "honour" at least 80 times throughout the movie, often mixing it up with the word "ego."
The premise is simple, following Marcus Aquila (Tatum) as he suffers a crisis of identity after being discharged from the Roman Army in 140 A.D. after being injured while defending Hadrian's Wall in Northern Britain. Deciding his purpose is to reclaim his father's lost "honour," he and slave Esca (Jamie Bell) travel beyond the guardian wall into dangerous territory, only to learn a little something about perspective and shades of grey, channelling modern life without direct analogies.
Ostensibly, they run around in the mountains of Scotland, hiding behind trees and occasionally hunting animals, protracting an inevitable battle against the Seal people.
Justifiably, this wooden simplicity deliberately draws its parallel to current political and moral ambivalence by tackling this sword and sandal adventure with old school stoicism and antiquated, gender-specific notions of brotherhood, both stylistically and pedagogically. The intention is to gain perspective on the basic human similarities on either side of a figurative, and literal, wall.
It's just that there is absolutely nothing going on beyond this notion aside from dry exposition and unintentionally clunky – and resultantly funny – observations about individual image versus that of imperialist lapdog. Since the characterizations are so thin and the story so superficial, it's nearly impossible to care about the frigging eagle or the "not-so-bright" protagonist.
Ultimately, this leaves only the battle sequences to appeal, which is fine, since they have a generalized, propulsive nature that works, even if there are random shots that make no sense, like a man emerging from the water in slow motion with a sword, serving no purpose in doing so beyond the seeming awesomeness of the image. Also, since the actual ethics of the climactic fight are muddied by the aforementioned didactics, the final act contrivance justifying slaughter comes off as woefully heavy-handed and painful, sort of like an episode of Walker: Texas Ranger.
But there are many folks out there keen on the notion of "honour" that may be able to overlook, or even find appeal in, the uniform insipidness. And for those that snicker when they hear men talk of such things, this may be the very unintentional comedy needed for an evening of derisive hilarity. (Alliance)