Kevin MacDonald has etched quite the path in his new lived career,
mostly of late with his award heavy Last King Of Scotland which gained
serious recognition for the likes of Forrest Whittaker and James McAvoy.
With an eye for an established cast, it may have been something of a
surprise then when McDonald cast Step Up supremo Channing Tatum as the
lead for the lead in the adaptation of Roman redemption picture The
The tale of the son of a disgraced Roman family battling to redeem
the honour of his father is not a rarity when it comes to Hollywood
narrative but it does make for a grand opportunity for maximum violence,
pouting and the signature Tatum torso (making its debut a mere 9
minutes into the film.)
After his father vanishes from the face of the earth with Eagle totum
of Rome and a hoard of soldiers, Tatum decides to brave the northest
of northern Scotland to retrieve this symbol of Roman pride under the
untrustworthy guidance of British slave Eska (a streaky Jamie Bell).
The very premise sounds like hard work, but visually this is something
else entirely. Our mismatched duo are dragged by horses, dragged though
rivers, dragged through rain. Raw rats are consumed. Soldiers have to
survive Tatum’s motivational speeches. This is a film of endurance,
testosterone and perseverance. There is barely a woman in sight.
Tatum to his credit is well cast; a sheer tank of a man, with almost
primitive emotions stands as the best chance of withstanding the
elements thrown at him by the highlands. Bell in tow is obedient and
likable as a native with questionable motives. Together they are an
agreeable vehicle driving through the various perils that face them,
including undoubtedly the best presence in the film Tahar Rahim’s Seal
When there is action it is expertly handled by MacDonald; all
bare-faced and quick-paced with as much gore as a 12A certificate will
allow. The parts directly before and after are also effective, with
shots of begrudging soldiers vomiting and looking on grim faced
contributing to the heavy burden of war. But it’s few and far between
for what should be an action laden picture. The Eagle’s narrative
becomes too bloated in places for its central actors to carry, with
blink and you’ll miss it parts filled out by the likes of Donald
Sutherland and Mark Strong rendering almost pointless to the outcome.
Admittedly the struggle by Marcus and Eska should be made apparent; this
would not be tale of the redemption of British Rome if they just
sauntered up and took the thing.
Shave about half an hour off and throw in some more sword play and a
better script and this might have been enough to stop a hot blooded
audience getting restless. Instead The Eagle shows hints of what
could have been and lays waste to a promising concept and good chemistry
between its central roles.