The Eagle Kevin MacDonald

The Eagle Kevin MacDonald
Half Gladiator, half Braveheart, Kevin Macdonald's The Eagle is a straightforward adventure yarn about honour, loyalty, justice and the power of symbolic birds. Based on the historical fiction of Rosemary Sutcliff, the film uses the conflict between the conquering, supposedly civilized Roman Empire and the savage, bearded nation of Caledonia (better known these days as Scotland) to frame the story of young centurion Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) who, with his British slave Esca (Jamie Bell) in tow, journeys into the wild highlands, ground zero for the mysterious disappearance of his father, who vanished, along with the entire garrison under his command, 20 years before. A straight-faced buddy adventure, The Eagle is epic on a budget and relatively frill-free, setting its action mostly in the great outdoors rather than utilizing opulent sets. Peppered with swordfights, chases and battle sequences, all strategically placed between stretches of manly dialogue, the film nevertheless feels like a retread of its similar predecessors. While The Eagle is blessedly devoid of an ego as large as Mel Gibson or Russell Crowe's, it is also devoid of the kind of sheer spectacle that makes movies like this work. Oddly bloodless, it feels like a sanitized version of history that simply won't pass muster with an audience fed a diet of HBO's salacious Rome. Director Macdonald, who started out (and still works as) a documentarian, made his mark with The Last King of Scotland. Scotland was aided by the powerhouse performances of Forest Whitaker and, to a less flashy extent, James McAvoy, as well as the palpable nature of true events. The Eagle, on the other hand, is missing that sort of stranger-than-fiction back-story. Tatum represents the strong, stoic Roman who learns a lesson in vulnerability, and Bell is the reticent former slave who learns his oppressors might not be such bad guys after all. Stop me if this sounds familiar. The film moves crisply, but ultimately lacks depth. The Eagle comes in two versions: the original theatrical cut and a slightly bloodier unrated version. Also included on the DVD are deleted scenes, an alternate ending, a making-of doc and a commentary track from Kevin Macdonald. (Alliance)