The Eagle is an epic Roman adventure set in the year 140AD and follows the Roman commander Marcus Flavius Aquila (Tatum) recently discharged from the army due to injury. Dissatisfied, Aquila goes on a quest with his slave Esca (Bell) to find the truth behind his father’s disappearance, after he led 5,000 men of the Ninth Legion and Rome’s symbolic totem golden eagle into the unknown territory of Caledonia 20 years before. Neither the legion nor the eagle returned, disgracing Aquila, his family and Rome.
Shot on location in a very bleak and cold Scotland, director Kevin MacDonald, whose previous movies include The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, really focuses on The Eagle as essentially a childlike buddy adventure movie, with refreshingly no female leads to both detract from the action, and take this movie into a completely different direction. There are not many epic action tales of late that do not try and market a movie as both action and romance, making it a good all rounder that all can enjoy. The Eagle makes no apologies that this is a movie really geared to let the inner 10-year-old child’s imagination run wild. There’s fisticuffs, battles, friendship and honour all poured into one that many grown-ups would have acted out as kids with sticks in their back gardens.
The cinematography is beautifully gritty, and with fast cuts and lots of extreme close-ups during the fight sequences to really hark home the nature of the movie. Adapted for the screen from Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel of the same name, this as a three parter, allows a glimmer that there may be sequels, or future parts to follow, but each one with a different lead. The Eagle isn’t for everyone, and if you’re after a movie that has romance, action and adventure, then I say you should rent the brainless Troy. But if CG fight sequences aren’t for you, and you’re after a refreshing take on a classic Roman epic, then The Eagle might very well be for you. The leads Tatum and Bell, both originally from dance backgrounds, appear to be making a conscious effort to step out of their comfort zone, and push each other further physically to prove their muster. While at times the acting can appear a little secondary, there’s no denying that there’s a strong friendship on screen between the two, and that’s one of the main themes that shines through The Eagle.
EXTRAS ★★★ An audio commentary with director Macdonald; The Eagle: Creating the Standard, a 45-minute making-of documentary; an alternate ending; deleted Scenes; the featurette The Eagle: The Making Of A Roman Epic.