Review: THE EAGLE (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Review: THE EAGLE (2011)



Last year, Neil Marshall's gritty take of the Ninth Legion story element in CENTURION is an exciting genre picture blessed with subtle direction, sweeping camerawork, muscular action sequences and engaging cast from Michael Fassbender and Olga Kurylenko. It's just too bad that CENTURION made little impact in the Stateside. By comparison, Kevin Macdonald's THE EAGLE is a polar opposite. Instead of concentrating the thrill of the chase pumped up in CENTURION, THE EAGLE aims something deeper within its Ninth Legion context -- by focusing on the aftermath of the tragic event and delves into meditative drama that echoes the rhythm of Francis Ford Coppola's APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) with a dash of Terrence Malick's poetic filmmaking style. No doubt it certainly sounds ambitious but instead, the movie ends up a huge disappointment it's really hard to believe this is the work of a talented director from Kevin Macdonald.

Based on the 1954 historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff, the movie opens with a wordy prologue stated that in 120 A.D., five thousand men from the Ninth Legion of the Roman Army has marched into Northern Britain and disappeared without a trace. Disgraced by their failure, Emperor Hadrian ends up building a wall separating the area from the rest of England in order to strengthen the military structure. Enter Roman officer Marcus Flavius Aquila (Channing Tatum), who finds himself being discharged from duty following from a battle injury fighting against the Pict tribes. Upon subsequent recovery provided by his Uncle Aquila (Donald Sutherland), Marcus sets off into dangerous territory far away from Hadrian's Wall in what would be a suicide mission to find out the truth about his dead father, who was once a commander of the Ninth Legion squad as well as retrieving the missing golden Eagle statue. Joining him on the quest is his slave Esca (Jamie Bell) whom he have saved his life earlier in the gladiatorial arena. Braving through treacherous journey and right into the enemy territory, their search eventually leads them to the brutal warriors of a tribe called Seal People who is apparently has the golden Eagle statue in their possession.

Jeremy Brock's adapted screenplay tries to cover different set of territories in the form of a sword-and-sandal genre picture via GLADIATOR-style, meditative drama of redemption, and a buddy picture focusing on turbulent friendship between Marcus and Esca -- all rolled into one movie. Unfortunately, the result is terribly banal and awfully pedestrian. It doesn't help either as the pacing is so languid at nearly two-hour length it's certainly a chore to sit through. Kevin Macdonald's direction, in the meantime, is uninspired and so wooden he doesn't seem to have slightest idea what makes a good genre picture of such. Adding further insult is the way how he prefers to shoot action sequences in close-up, shaky-cam style coupled with Justine Wright's incoherent editing and shockingly embarrassing PG-13 rating that makes everything more of a blurry mess of rapid motion.

But of all, the movie's biggest failure is the total miscast of Channing Tatum for the lead role. A meaty genre picture like this needs more than just a mere actor like Tatum. And not surprisingly, his acting performance resembles a piece of wooden plank. It's especially hard to take him seriously as a battle-hardened character who have endured so many emotional and physical pain, given the look of his inappropriately baby-faced appearance. If that's not insulting enough, Tatum's speaking voice is all-American accent that it's clear he made little effort to invest his character in proper manner. The rest of the cast are equally as cut-rate, with supporting roles of Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland and Mark Strong failed to leave much of a lasting impression.

The only good thing for THE EAGLE is its handsome production, aided by Anthony Dod Mantle's breathtaking cinematography that successfully captured the brooding look of the Scotland landscapes.

Overall, stick to CENTURION instead.

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