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The Eagle

March 27, 2011

The Eagle (2011)
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Actors: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland

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Synopsis: A Roman centurion (Channing Tatum) ventures forth into Scotland to find the missing emblem to his late-father’s batallion.

Review: This is an enjoyable, if slightly silly, thriller in the Gladiator vein that makes do with most of the motifs and technique of Ridley Scott’s ‘swords-and-sandal’ epic, bar locating its story well away from Rome, to the fringes of the Roman Empire in a barren and unforgiving Britain. It seems harsh to be overly critical of a film that clearly has a fairly modest functional remit, but there are some bizarre decisions in the realisation of The Eagle which erode one’s suspension of disbelief. The first is to give American accents to the Roman characters (rather than the standard dramatic device of RP English), and the Brits are given exotic regional dialects – making them more akin to the notion of Native Americans in recent movies by Terrence Malick and co, rather than the doughty celtic hordes they were much more likely to have been. Equally jarring is the slippage in how the Scottish landscape is presented – once or twice we see the heaths and highlands with which Scotland is associated, before the action is transported to suspiciously continental-looking forests or remarkably benign coastlands. The plot itself trundles along entertainingly enough, and there is a pleasing lack of pretension in the story and performances. That said, there is an amusing homoerotic tension between Channing Tatum’s Roman soldier and Jamie Bell’s slave, and the plot hook about Tatum resolving his sentimental father angst, seems shoehorned in from any standard American picture. (March 2011)

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