USA/UK, 2011: The Eagle
Genre: Action, Adventure, Historical
The son of a disgraced Roman family journeys beyond the known world to retrieve his long lost fatherís treasured eagle standard.
Kevin Macdonaldís re-telling of Romeís lost Ninth Legion could have been grand revival of adventure stories, a fun swashbuckling romp through the classical age. It just as well could have been a deep and resonating tale of two completely different civilizations, exploring class status as a representation of the empireís relationship to its colonies and the outside world. But instead we get neither, and are left with a somewhat mediocre re-hash of a dramatic buddy film that happens to be set in ancient Britain. Boasting an epic score filled with haunting vocals and beautiful cinematography of rural Hungary and Scotland, the stage was set for this to be a winner. So much attention was paid to the costumes and the cultures, the end product felt suitably alien and terrifying. Even if the tribe of Seal People may not have been real, even if they were speaking a dialect of Gaelic which probably wasnít around at the time, the point is that the world felt genuine, which could have served to elevate the immersion into the story to a completely different level.
Unfortunately, the direction of the story and actors was so bland and predictable that spoils any effect the production values would have had. To begin with, everything moves at a glacially slow pace, padding out the thin plot. A slow paced movie would have been fine if they had decided to do something with it, but they didnít. Instead of using the contrasting leads of the film to represent the larger conflict between Rome and the untamed British Isles, Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell fall into a tired role reversal plot as they look for the titular standard. Tatum and Bell donít have great chemistry on screen together, but it could be because of how few lines they exchange. Tatum doesnít give the most wooden performance compared to other action stars, but he definitely isnít going to be winning any awards for his role here. The supporting cast is almost unnoticeable, save for some solid work by Donald Sutherland.
Had Macdonald went the other direction, I think that this could have been a great popcorn flick to finish off the winter. But because the story takes itself so seriously, the action gets bumped down to the bottom of the priorities list. The fights seem choreographed and realistic enough, but theyíre shot and edited so poorly itís impossible to build up much suspense or investment. The scenes cut between far too close and simply too far, without much in the middle to give the audience an idea of whatís going on. Without a strong story to bypass the action, and without entertaining action to pass along the story, The Eagle wastes its potential and ends up being just a rather boring space between the better part of two hours.
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