The Eagle
Zach Davis

Directed by: Kevin Macdonald

Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, and Mark Strong

Kevin Macdonald is mostly known for documentary pieces, and The Eagle marks his third time behind the camera for a non-documentary feature film.  His previous works include The Last King of Scotland and State of Play.  With this in mind, hiring a director that specializes in documentary filmmaking is a mistake that takes away from the story of the film.  Documentarians are not storytellers; they’re teachers.  Most great historical epics in recent years have been put together by expert storytellers such as Ridley Scott, Martin Scorsese, and Peter Weir.  Macdonald’s The Eagle isn’t even in the same league as any of their films.

Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) lives in the shadow of his father’s disgrace, and aims to make amends for his family’s name.  While in command of the 9th legion of Rome, Marcus’ father was defeated and lost the treasured Eagle standard, the symbol of Rome.  Marcus, a commander himself, is now charged with the defense of an outpost in the same region where his father met his bane.  As soon as he arrives, his leadership is put to the test as invading tribesmen of the region assail his stronghold.  Marcus and his men are victorious in a battle that sees Marcus injured and honorably discharged from the Roman military.  This forces him to retire to his uncle’s (Donald Sutherland) villa to recover. 

During his recovery, Marcus acquires the slave Esca (Jamie Bell) who quickly gains his trust and respect.  One night, Marcus hears a rumor that the Eagle standard his father lost had been seen amongst a tribe that lives outside the Roman Empire.  Unable to get military support to retrieve it, Marcus goes on a quest to find the standard along with his slave Esca who knows the languages of the tribes.  Unsure of whether Esca will betray him and whether he can succeed in a region outside the influence of Rome, Marcus sees this mission as his last chance to reclaim his family’s honor.

The Eagle is very much a movie about honor through and through.  Macdonald perpetuates this theme throughout the film.  He builds every relationship between the characters and every plot twist in the film with honor and dignity in mind.  While thematically this is important, Macdonald puts the storytelling aside to emphasize this theme, which ultimately hurts the movie. 

One of the main faults of The Eagle is the usage of cutaways.  These scenes seem to be flashbacks to fights and memories that are not relevant to the story at hand.  They interrupt the main storyline and are generally confusing in nature.  Also, the battle scenes aren’t impressive at all.  They look like they were made for a special on the History Channel rather than a major motion picture.

Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell do a fair job for what their parts demand.  However, the secondary cast leaves a lot to be desired.   Most of the supporting actors portraying Roman soldiers deliver their lines as if they’re reading them from a cue card.  They were so bland and monotonous.  That being said, the actors portraying the tribesmen painted a decent picture of the wild man, the human still weary of civilization.

The Eagle is the perfect film for you to pour yourself a couple of cocktails.  You’ll need a drink or two to endure this one.  This flick gets a 0.09% rating.