Kevin Macdonald's historical drama/war movie, starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell
Following on from State of Play, Kevin Macdonald has created a new adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff’s children’s adventure The Eagle of the Ninth, which was also the subject of a fondly remembered BBC TV series. After his success with The Last King of Scotland, Macdonald has been able to pull together an impressive production for this Scottish-set story, but The Eagle fails to land due to an over-literal script by Jeremy Brock.
Lumpen hunk Channing Tatum (GI Joe, Dear John) plays Marcus, a Roman centurion who is injured in battle, and left to recuperate with his uncle Aquila (Donald Sutherland). While resting, Marcus hears of his vanished father, who 20 years previously commanded a legion of 5000 men north of Hadrian’s Wall, and was never seen again. With his slave Esca (Jamie Bell) by his side, Marcus sets off for Caledonia to retrieve the Golden Eagle emblem of the lost legion, and to clear his family name. Standing between them and the prize are the Seal people, a savage race who made short work of Marcus’ father.
It’s a measure of the awkwardness of Brock’s script that it takes 40 minutes before Marcus sets out on his mission, yet considerably less time to find the Eagle. Macdonald has a strong feel for military life, yet The Eagle lacks the pace and momentum that worked so well on the page. And Tatum, who certainly looks the part of a warrior, delivers a flat performance, lacking in spirit or fire, and striking no sparks with the well-qualified cast around him.
On the plus side, The Eagle is a frequently engrossing, old-fashioned adventure story that will please older children. But without the operatic, visceral feel of Zack Snyder’s 300, The Eagle isn’t likely to fly much higher than last year’s already forgotten Centurion.