161 of 168 people found the following review helpful
Back in the early second century, the Ninth Legion disappeared from history. The current going theory is that they were wiped out in combat in the Eastern Provinces, but there's also a theory that they were destroyed fighting the Picts in what is now called Scotland. That's the jumping-off point for The Eagle, a rather lightweight sword and sandals film staring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell.
Tatum plays Marcus Flavius Aquila, son of the commander of the Ninth Legion. He's gone into the army himself and worked hard to get sent to Britannia, where he hopes to not only recover his father's honor, but also that of the Legion and to recover it's beloved standard; a gold eagle. The Roman legions fetishized their eagles (or "aquila", a word suspiciously similiar to the last name of our hero), to an impressive degree. Better in many ways to lose every man in your legion than to lose your standard.
Anyhow, young Marcus gets to Britannia, takes command of a legion, promptly gets injured and drummed out of the service, then acquires Esca (Jamie Bell), a young slave. He eventually hatches a plan to find the Eagle and along with Esca, heads north into darkest Caledonia. Along the way the two fight, bond and generally have an interesting time of it.
I really enjoyed this movie. It was entertaining, well-done and well-paced. Several of the plot twists were telegraphed well in advance, including the biggest one, which was shown to us in the trailers. But that minor complaint aside, it was good. The historical accuracy was decent (though some of the tactics the Romans employ made me roll my eyes. Where's your pila, boys?), and anytime I see a movie with Romans not using stirrups I get a least a bit happy. Plus it was cool hearing the Picts speaking Gaelic. Yes, it wasn't Pictish, but it was the best they could do, and at least it wasn't the Pictsies. Also, the acting was quite decent, and Channing Tatum seems to have done a good job of redeeming himself after some of his other works.
This is minor escapist fare. It's nothing great, but it is pretty fun and on the whole there's certainly far worse ways to spend a couple hours.
122 of 132 people found the following review helpful
Around the year 100, the Roman Legio IX Hispana supposedly went missing somewhere in Britain. Nobody really knows what happened to them.
But that hasn't stopped writers and moviemakers from speculating about what did happen. "The Eagle" is a solid adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff's novel "The Eagle of the Ninth" -- a gritty, mud-slicked quest movie set in a time when Rome still ruled the world. Channing Tatum is a little wooden, but he's more than made up for by Jamie Bell's subtle performance.
Centurion Marcus Flavius Aquila (Tatum) is the son of the Ninth Legion's commander, and is determined to regain his family honor. But after he's horribly wounded in battle, he finds himself honorably discharged and facing a life of boredom... until he hears rumors that the Ninth Legion's golden eagle has been seen north of Hadrian's Wall. If he can get the eagle, his family's honor will be restored.
The problem is, no Roman has gone past the wall and lived to tell about it. So Aquila sets out to northern Britain, with his Briton slave Esca (Bell) as his only guide -- and quickly runs into deserters, rogue warriors, and the deadly blue-painted Seal People who helped destroy the Ninth Legion. Can they rely on each other long enough to find the golden eagle... and can they make it back to Roman land alive?
Of the three movies made about the Lost Legion in the last few years, "The Eagle" is probably the grittiest and most realistic -- there are no glorious battles, Hollywoodized Celts or Arthuriana. Instead, director Kevin Macdonald fills the movie with mud, rain, cold pale light, grimy little outposts, frenetic small battles and the spare expanses of Scotland.
And for the most part, the movie succeeds. It's a small, lean movie with a lot of underlying tension, and some hauntingly atmospheric scenes like the Seal People's firelit ceremonies, complete with a horned-god figure and lots of dancing/chanting. Also a nice touch: all the Britons speak Gaelic. It isn't entirely accurate, but is a nice change after countless movies where everybody speaks English. Even better, there are no subtitles, so we're as lost as Aquila whenever they speak.
The one downside: the climactic battle is visually beautiful -- it's savage, bloody and wild. But the conveniently-timed arrival of Aquila's allies is just too "Hollywood."
And Macdonald avoids identifying either the Romans or Britons as "bad guys" -- they both commit atrocities, but they both also have good honorable people as well. Esca and Aquila represent both their peoples in this story, so obviously the movie rests on the shoulders of Tatum and Bell. Tatum is rather wooden at first, but he gets more flexible and emotional as the movie goes on; and Bell gives a pitch-perfect performance as a proud young Briton with an iron-clad code of honor.
Sure, there are a few other actors of note in here -- Donald Sutherland and Mark Strong have brief, well-acted roles, and Tahar Rahim does an excellent job as the blue-skinned Mohawked prince of the Seal People, but the star roles are really what this story depends on.
As for this blu-ray edition, it will apparently contain the original PG-13 version, plus the unrated version. There is also going to be an alternate ending, deleted scenes, directorial commentary, a featurette about the making of the movie, smart phone interaction and something called UHear.
"The Eagle" is a movie that feels very richly authentic, and has just enough mud, blood, rain and heather to make it seem as if you've traveled back in time.
104 of 114 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2011
Loosely based on Rosemary Sutcliff's novel The Eagle of the Ninth (The Roman Britain Trilogy), with its sweeping cinematography and the hauntingly atmospheric score by Atli Orvarsson, this movie set in Britain 140 AD starts as a slice-of-life military drama and quickly twists off into epic adventure. Though billed as some sort of soldier/daddy-worship epic, with nary a woman in sight, this movie unravels into an amazing bromance that seems more like a love story between two young men from different walks of life than anything else.
Marcus(Channing Tatum) is forced out of his career as a soldier by battle wounds received while defending his first command post in distant Britain. The son of an infamous Roman commander who marched 5000 men into northern Britain and subsequently vanished, Marcus's dream of winning back his family's honor through soldierly deeds is summarily crushed by his discharge from service. Languishing in civilian life in his uncle's villa, Marcus' hatches a plan to win his family's honor back with the help of his Briton slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), by different means. Marcus will find the eagle standard of his father's lost legion by traveling into the hostile unconquered northern lands (Caledonia, or modern day Scotland) and Esca will lead the way. The tension and conflict between The Eagle's two main characters powers the movie along to its surprisingly up-beat conclusion.
It is a rare treat to see a movie that takes place in pre-Christian Britain. The costuming is impeccable and the people are gritty, filthy and refreshingly normal looking: no magic Hollywood showers or supermodel background characters ruin the believability of the time and place this movie hearkens to. As far as visual storytelling goes, I was impressed that so many plot points, shifts in attitude, and changes in relationships were indicated by simple glances, a change in wardrobe or what a character happened to be holding in a scene, without any dialogue whatsoever.
The strengths of this movie lie in its visual story telling, its pacing, and in the acting skills of its secondary characters. Jamie Bell gives an incredibly believable and understated performance as Esca. One of the most heart wrenching moments is the movie (and unquestionably the best acted monologue) is Esca's tale relating the fate of his family. There is no flowery verbage, no dramatic shouting, yet this simple soft-spoken monologue brought tears to my eyes. Tahir Rakhim's portrayal of the Seal Prince (a group of people entirely invented for this movie) was also done with staunch realism and believability. The inclusion of Gaelic dialogue was a pleasant surprise that helped emphasizes the social and cultural differences that existed between the people of the British isle and the Roman invaders at that time. It was with the Roman actors that I felt a bit of a disconnect, finding the mannerisms and verbal ticks of Strong, O'Hare and Sutherland to be a little too modern, though Sutherland's up-beat performance was remarkably refereshing in an otherwise emotionally heavy movie.
I'm very fond of this movie but will admit its most immediate faults. A common historical inaccuracy is perpetrated in the gladiator scene, with the thumbs-up/thumbs-down being reversed. I fear that this may be a mistake the movie industry never rectifies. And while the movie holds together beautifully up until the final battle with the Seal People, around then the dialogue gets clunky and loses some of is brusque magic. Guern's " I just have to tell you real quick yer dad wasn't a coward" speech as well as Marcus's pyre speech made me cringe a little. Both were very heavy-handed and awkwardly performed. Also, a rather large plot hole was torn open with the murder of the Seal Boy. Are we actually to believe that while chasing Marcus and Esca down on foot, the Seal Warriors carried this kid along just to kill him? After the boy is laid down in the water, he is never seen again. Guern receives a hero's send off, and the child Esca befriended is nowhere to be seen. I doubt the boy's murdered needed inclusion at all. If his death was only to induce Esca to fight, well...it was already fairly reasonable to believe that because of their bond, he would have fought with Marcus anyway.
Overall, this movie is visually stunning and emotionally intense without being melodramatic (at least until that end bit), and so I happily recommend The Eagle to history buffs, fangirls and fangirls of history. It may not be perfect, but The Eagle has the rare ability to transport a viewer to another time and place for two hours. Give it your time, and you will certainly be amused.
37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
Love these kinds of movies with my favorites being Braveheart and Spartacus. The story of the 9th Legion is often told in many different ways since the true story is lost to history. Last year was the bloody Centurion which I liked, and before that we has The Last Legion. The Eagle starts off well with a brooding Channing Tatum taking his post in Britain trying to salvage his families' honor after the disappearance of the 9th which was commanded by his father. Not much set up before you get right into the action. Some nice small battle scenes. Then the movie becomes less an epic and more an adventure as Tatum sets out into the wilds of northern Britain to find the Eagle standard of the 9th. The end of the movie wraps up with another small battle. The movie is very good in places like the beautiful locations and period look as well as a strong performance from Channing. Points where it lacks are the failings to live up to the word "Epic", some gaps in logic and believability as well as giving you any surprises. I did enjoy the movie and will purchase it when it is released on Blu.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2012
The previous 92 reviews raise many of the problems with this nevertheless excellent film, yet I hope that I can add something.
When people nitpick a lot about films that have a lot going for them, it looks like the film is not working on some deeper level for them. One can nitpick about ANY film, but we generally let the small things go when there are bigger things that we appreciate. I do the same. I like sci-fi films and Westerns and love stories that are not completely realistic and so on if they work overall. I wish all the nitpicking reviewers of the Eagle had articulated what it was that made them dwell on the rough spots. But of course it is hard to "know thyself" and easier to nitpick.
What kept me involved with the film? For one thing it was beautiful to look at. There was well photographed scenery and attractive and believable sets and well photographed interactions. The Seal People were necessarily made up images, but they were great images. Donald Sutherland was wooden at times, but he made up for this overall and as a distinctive character. Etc. Channing's acting seemed right and convincing for a serious young soldier who had a special motive for being in the thick of things. The ancient Romans are said to have been serious business like people and that is how he played the lead. If he has played it as young Hamlet it would have been inappropriate.
Maybe I would have kept watching it with the sound off -- I am not completely serious, but I am trying to make a point that it was easy on the eyes.
Perhaps what really kept me involved was that it it was pretty clear early in the film that it was going to be character and mood driven and would not depend simply on blood and sandals spectacle. Young men driven by honor and loyalty to do crazy things is a fascinating topic in my mind. This part was pulled off very well in my opinion. It kept me in suspense as a matter of "human interest" -- how far would this kid go to get back some stupid eagle? How far would his slave go out of loyalty to his master, despite his ambiguous feelings about him to begin with? Parts of their "buddy adventure" could be seen as tedious but for me they just kept up the tension of when will one or the other reach a breaking point?
Obviously viewers who can not empathize with boys who go into insane war conditions out of a feeling of honor or pride in the flag and who have over the years seen many of them disillusioned would not relate to the film this way. And obviously people who do not empathize with people who go overboard out of loyalty to friends and then have seen the loyalty reach a breaking point also would not relate to the dramatic tension in the film the same way I did.
Thus one thing I want to say here is that I really appreciated the alternative endings that were presented, because they were important parts of the whole story for me. I watched the non-rated blu ray version. The theatrical ending was really lame in my opinion, but it was probably the crowd pleaser. Mission accomplished, the eagle is brought back to the big shots and then the kid has earned the right to tell them off. Cliche #10,000.
The alternative ending was also a cliche, but it was in my opinion more fitting with the rest of the film because it suggested that the boy warrior had learned something and matured from his contacts with "the enemy." Most superficially he had learned that the symbols were not that important and that the esteem of the rulers was not that important. What was important was people and their substance regardless of rank and honors.
This gets us around to why I say it was good enough to be controversial. The film is sell enough done to get you involved with the characters and wonder SHOULD they just keep going with honor and loyalty. Is being patriotic to Rome really worth all this? How sane is honer taken to this level, which is not entirely unrealistic for some guys. There is something admirable, and I am not putting it down. But it is debatable and worth discussing.
Yes then as former slave and master go off into the sunset all but holding hands this might look sort of corny, but it does tie things together. They had both grown into real people instead of puppets of their cultures.
Some have called their relationship homoerotic. Well, maybe. Who knows? Who cares? What would that have to do with anything? It was a buddy film, and buddies can come to love each other in buddy ways as brothers or whatever. There was intimate male bonding and that would be natural after all they had been through. Is that really corny or even unusual when you think about it? Male intimacy is still awkward for many guys in our culture, and there are some women who see male coalitions as threats. So that part of the alternative ending may have been objectionable to some because of "deep" psychological reasons, and it might be tempting to "dismiss" it as homoerotic (whatever that means). But painting labels like that is a distraction from the simple fact that the two had been though a heck of a lot and obviously had developed the trust and mutual respect to consider making a life together as partners. So this was the consistent ending in terms of the tension all along that had been working itself out in their relationship.
In addition to the alternative ending -- that I would say is a must watch -- the deleted scenes were substantial and worthwhile. The "making of" was better than most but not tops. I confess that I got tired of the director's commentary and stopped watching. But then I was coming down with a bug.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2011
Well, we've had tons of people slamming the film -- many whom I doubt could themselves act their way out of a paper bag -- and I am always amazed at those who have never done the work, nor been in the business (not even their backyard little theater), who render such wondrous opinions of who can act and who can't.
We've also had input on the historical accuracy involved; and a run through of the whole plot. So what's left?
I went because I always look forward to ancient "historical" films, whether wonderful or not. Many are terrible; the latter ones have definitely come up since the 50's. (Among one of the worst ever, was Richard Burton's "Alexander the Great.") And while I would love to have seen more/better results from this film... I was very well pleased with what I saw. Even if I could not for the life of me understand why Donald Sutherland would choose to have an estate in such a god-forsaken place, as much as if his were the only residence in that part of Britain. How did he survive from being bored to death? To leave the comforts of most Roman cities for a backwater? And then, yes, the business of the Seal People reminded me definitely of "American" Indians, more than northern British savages. It was also obvious the producers were on a tight budget, and spent their money judicuously. But I was still pretty happy with the results.
Here, I saw Channing Tatum as one of the most perfectly cast Romans possible. He had the look, the bearing, the character, and the attractiveness. I've never seen him act before, but I was impressed enough to call this role for him: star-making. (Wooden? Go back to bed, people. You wouldn't know a post from a stone.) Granted, to enhance his standing, if Tatum could take off a year and enroll in the Actor's Studio, he might definitely be a true force in the making. (From interviews, I understand he's never had any lessons.) Jamie Bell is also a pleasure to see, as well. Something odd and intense and deep about him, both hard and sensitive (The kid who made "Billy Elliot" magical.)
Further, while the characters of Channing and Jamie were supposed to be in strong cross-conflict with each other...
maybe this failed on both their parts. No matter what they did, or what the script called for, or how they read their lines -- you just could not dismiss "sensing" the love these two guys had for each other, whether expressed or not, it was just there somehow. And I was really pulling for their friendship to be shown, which it was eventually, but had to be somewhat repressed for the film. (All this confirmed in later interviews, that they got along famously in person.) So great! Yeah, an undercurrent of homoeroticism -- so what? It made the film alive, for me. And probably saved it from being just a very dreary-some adventure in barren north Scotland.
The only other thing I missed was maybe somehow a greater emphasis on the symbol of the eagle. It was there, but for me, not quite strong enough. And too, I never could quite get over "how" the Seal People could buy the story of Marcus being Esca's slave. Marcus was just too much of a standout, physically, etc. It just didn't ring through. However... the film itself had me groaning for more -- . Loved it far better than "The Centurion."
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
When my kids were young, I read them Rosemary Suttcliff's "The Eagle of The Ninth." We all really enjoyed the book--not just the story of Marcus and Esca (and Esca's tamed wolf) but the history of the Romans in Britain. My kids--now young adults--and I were really looking forward to seeing the movie.
Other reviewers have gone into detail regarding the plot, and some have pointed out that this film did okay as far as incorporating historically accurate elements. Basically, Marcus and his slave Esca venture into the wilds of Britain--beyond Hadrian's Wall--to retrieve the eagle standard of the Ninth Legion, which was under his father's command. As long as the standard remains lost, so does the honor of the Ninth Legion and Marcus's family.
As for the movie, I can't decide whether to give this a:
Thumbs up/Life, life!--Except for skipping the part about the wolf (save for one shot of a caged wolf cub), the movie stayed faithful to the book. During the initial battle scenes, the lorica musculata was a flattering look for Channing Tatum and crew. Donald Sutherland, while he didn't have a big role as Marcus's uncle, is always good. The scenes with the warrior Seal People were pretty tense, too.
Thumbs down/Death, death!--It's too bad that the dramatic tension wasn't sustained throughout the rest of the film, which dragged in some parts. That was disappointing. The dialogue was a bit stilted and cliched, but again, that was in line with Sutcliff's writing. It came across better in the book.
And why did Donald Sutherland serve eggs to his dignatary guests even though Marcus and Esca just killed a big boar? Wouldn't you think he'd prepare a rack of ribs?
In any case, we all agreed that this movie was just okay, and no match for the book.
But if you like movies about the Roman Legion--and come on, who doesn't?--you'll probably enjoy this.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2011
I expected a "B" class movie, but was pleasantly surprised. It was well written, full of action, humor, and emotionally engaging. It got me caught up in the story, and I really enjoyed myself. Channing Tatum is really coming along. He's becoming a first rate actor.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2011
The film had Picts and other Celtic tribes fighting the Romans, as well as beautiful shots of the Scottish Highlands. It had just about all I could want, therefore, although the script could have been a bit tighter and the acting better. Based on the novel The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff, the story takes place in 140 AD. Channing Tatum plays a young Roman centurian, whose father commanded the Ninth Legion, which had 5,000 men almost all killed by the Celts--at least in the film. First, Tatum is commander of a fort, which has to repel an attack; then, he and a Celtic slave (played by Jamie Bell) head north of Hadrian's Wall to retrieve the Ninth's eagle standard, held by the blue-painted Seal People.
Somehow, a handful of Roman deserters are there to help Tatum and Bell fend off a Seal People attack. Their existence seems very unlikely, but apparently, according to historical accounts, some of the Ninth's men did survive and served in later campaigns (although they were not hiding in the woods for two decades, as they were in the film). Nevertheless, this battle scene and one around the fort are stirring!
All in all, I feel that this is an entertaining and historically interesting film.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2013
We read the book, Eagle of the Ninth, as a family read-aloud, and really enjoyed it. We were quite excited when The Eagle came out, and checked the DVD out from the library. I enjoyed the movie enough that I bought a copy of the DVD and watched it again. The first part of the movie was pretty true to the book, though I was disappointed that the wolf was left out altogether. I am very glad that we read the book first, because that was how we knew what was really behind all that went on in the movie.
I thought the director did a subtle yet compelling job portraying the respect the men developed for Marcus after he called the nighttime attack. They went from grumbling and derisive to respectful and admiring, and for good reason. If you didn't pay too much attention to Donald Sutherland, the time Marcus spent at his uncle's house gave us some important information and background as well. When Marcus and Esca leave, their journey is a bit vague, but if you work at it you can get past that. However, when the Seal People showed up painted completely blue (or rather, more of a blue-gray) and looking more like American Indians than Celts, the movie dropped in my estimation. The Britons at the beginning of the film were well portrayed, but the Seal People . . .
I always have a hard time writing movie reviews, because I don't like to say things that will spoil someone's surprise when they watch it. Had I not read the book, the departure from the story would not have bothered me. The portrayal of the Painted (Seal) People really did bother us though, as my son has studied Celtic history fairly extensively. He almost left when they showed up, but we convinced him to stay and watch the rest of the movie, though we did have to ask him to groan a bit more softly.
He did inform us that the Celts did not paint their entire bodies solid blue, but instead painted spiral designs on their bodies, and the paint was bright blue, not a dingy blue-gray. They also combed lime through their hair to make it spiky, and their hair was typically shorter cropped in the front and sides, and their hair color was more likely in the brown range, not black. They certainly did not wear their hair in mohawks! They did not wear "Indian" bone necklaces either. And our Roman friend towered over most of the Celts, but in reality the Celts were actually much taller than the Romans.
The Painted People in the movie had weapons that looked suspiciously like tomahawks. The real Celts were masters at iron work, and would not have carried stone weapons. The Celts were also pretty good horsemen, yet the Seals pursued their enemy on foot, from Northern Scotland to the far south - Hadrian's Wall. I don't believe I've ever heard of anyone being able to jog the entire length (north to south) of Scotland in five days.
It seems to me that if a teenaged boy can find out these things, that a big Hollywood director should be able to do the same, especially since he probably has other people he can send to do the research. Perhaps he was just appealing to what the majority of people think of when they think of "savages" (to quote a character in the film). Many people are not going to know much about this part of history, so it may not bother them.
Also, in the book, Marcus was disguised as a Greek eye "doctor", which is what allowed him to move around without being killed. He actually helped quite a few people, and grew to feel pleasure and pride in what he was doing for them. In the movie, he was just a Roman riding around with a Celt, and that was that. In reality, the chances of that happening were not very good.
That being said, I was able to look past all this and enjoy the movie, and I especially enjoyed the development of friendship, trust, and true loyalty between Marcus and Esca. I could have done without the "ethereal" flashbacks that were scattered here and there, always with eerie music. But I really liked the comeuppance dealt to the "politician's son" at the end of the movie.
I really appreciated the fact that there was not a major woman's role written into the script. For crying out loud, it is not necessary to put a woman in a story that didn't have one in the first place. I find it irritating and patronizing when this occurs in movies, and I say kudos to the director for keeping the story what it was, a story of men. That being said, the movie ignored Cottia completely. I don't think the movie was any worse for that, but if you read the book you did find yourself wondering what had happened to her in the movie.
I thought that Tatum did a fine job of portraying Marcus. The main character was a brooding man, because the shadow of his father's disgrace had haunted him his entire life. I thought that he brought forth that brooding and pensiveness quite well, keeping his turmoil and emotions tightly controlled and maintaining his "Roman-ness".
In the book, Marcus and Esca developed a true and deep friendship, but it was rockier in the movie. The scene where they tumble off their horses to fight one another could not have happened in the book - in fact, it didn't. The end of the movie did manage to show some of the depth of their friendship, though it came as a bit of a surprise after the mistrust that had been prevalent through most of the movie.
Because in and of itself, The Eagle is an exciting film and it tells a good story, I rate it 4 stars. I enjoyed the movie the first time I watched it, and I enjoyed it again this afternoon, when I watched it for the second time.