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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Jamie Bell
Channing Tatum
Donald Sutherland
Mark Strong
Denis O'Hare.
Directors
Kevin Macdonald.
Screenwriters
Jeremy Brock.
Running Time
114 minutes

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The Eagle
Fails to swoop


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Plot
Centurion Marcus Aquila (Tatum) comes to Roman Britain determined to redeem his family’s honour from the stain caused when his father led the Ninth Legion to disaster years before. He saves a British slave, Esca (Bell), who agrees to lead him north to find out what happened…


Review
The Eagle
Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle Of The Ninth is a classic of British young adult fiction: a well-told story of derring-do and friendship in a Roman milieu. This film adaptation, with its abbreviated title and American stars, suffers slightly from the advances in historical research since Sutcliff’s time — we now know that the Ninth didn’t vanish in Scotland at all — but its biggest problems are in a muddled execution that detracts from the well-directed action.

There’s a promising start as newly minted Centurion Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) arrives at his Roman garrison in a barely civilised Britain and sets out to get his troops in line. Tatum — who’s had plenty of practice in films like Stop-Loss and Dear John — makes a convincing soldier, even if his accent never quite settles and seems to infect those around him, and the opening military scenes are exhilarating, displaying Roman tactics in action in a way that shows just how they conquered half the known world.

Things stumble just when they should take off, however, as Marcus is invalided out of the Army and heads into the north with Jamie Bell’s Esca, a slave he rescued from the gladiatorial arena, in search of the lost Eagle, standard of the Ninth Legion. We are treated to a few scenes of the pair bonding, but the film never communicates their unlikely friendship, the fulcrum of the book. As a result, Esca’s actions never ring true, and the plot fractures while a strange sort of sympathetic fallacy takes over the cinematography.

Kevin Macdonald’s clearly keen to emphasise the difference between the golden Roman provinces, basking in sun and drifting along reed-lined rivers, and their barren, stony northern neighbours, but builds the contrast to a degree that will jar with anyone who’s ever experienced the questionable summers of southern England. And while the Scottish tribes in Roman times were no doubt savage, these painted Picts seem more Na’vi than northern. They boast bone necklaces and war paint that might illustrate their strangeness but which seem entirely out of keeping with the period tropes indulged elsewhere. After all, if you’re going to reinforce myths like the disappearance of the Ninth or the use of ‘thumbs down’ gestures in the arena, why push so far towards novelty in this one area? A cleverly constructed final battle, small in scale but big in impact, can’t compensate for a middle section that never finds its feet.


Verdict
Good fight scenes, but a confusion of plot, culture and accents make this a lesser example of the sword ’n’ sandal epic.


Reviewed by Helen O'Hara

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Eagle
Empire Star Rating

RE: The Eagle

The Eagle (2011)   If I’m wrong then I shall die: And that’s how it should be.   The Eagle is directed by Kevin Macdonald and adapted to screenplay by Jeremy Brock from the book The Eagle of the Ninth written by Rosemary Sutcliff. It stars Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Tahar Rahim and Mark Strong. Music is scored by Atli Örvarsson and cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle.   In 120 AD, The Roman Ninth Legion marched into Caledonia, they, along with the... More

Posted by JohnChard at 19:16, 21 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Eagle

Well I'm loving all these historical films being made these days interesting and gloriously epic and this film despite not being a huge Hollywood flick is really decent and worth the watch. The plot revolving around the mystery of the Ninth Legion (Legio IX Hispana) has been passed around the history books for along time and no one really knows what happened to them but this film goes along with the safe bet that they were simply ambushed and beaten by local tribes (probably Picts) and all k... More

Posted by Phubbs at 17:35, 02 May 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Eagle Review

I enjoyed it - as Vitamin F says, watchable but forgettable. I'm a big fan of sword and sandals stuff, but most of the time what we get on the big screen disappoints (I'm looking at you "300"). The accents - well, it was confirmed in the director's commentary that they gave all the Romans American accents on purpose - like the did in Alexander O'Great (giving the Macedonians Irish accents, the Greeks English ones etc). I like the device, I think it works well. ... More

Posted by Russ Whitfield at 11:29, 30 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: The Eagle Review

LERS **his should have been a lot better, there are just too many flaws. The fight scenes look like they were edited with a breadknife to obtain a 12 certificate and seemed rather flat, and while the cliches (both dialogue and situation) are fewer than that other disappointment Centurion, that final scene as has been mentioned in previous posts is so out of place with the tone of the rest of the film that, yes indeed, all that was missing was a high five and a freeze-frame! The Eagle ... More

Posted by Vitamin F at 11:07, 30 April 2012 | Report This Post


The Eagle Review

The Eagle has a pleasantly traditional action-adventure appeal, but it's drowned out by Kevin Macdonald's stolid direction and Channing Tatum's uninspired work in the central role. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 21:09, 28 March 2012 | Report This Post


The Eagle: Review

The Eagle is an alright film. It had some good battle scenes and the story is a bit interesting to learn. The problems with the film is i personally have seen better films in this genre then this one and some scenes were just taking out of other films just to fill the space of scenes. I would recommend this film to be a rental. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Edward9630 at 02:50, 08 August 2011 | Report This Post


Enjoyable movie !

Jamie Bell. delivers a good Performance in this Movie & also good Performance from. Channing Tatum a enjoyable movie . ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by soulfood at 18:26, 22 April 2011 | Report This Post


A mess

Somewhere in this was a good film trying to come out, but nearly every opportunity was wasted. I can live with errors and odd accents, but this just didn't work, it was disjointed, had flawed logic and the two leads just failed to bond. Part made by Film4 and it felt like a TV movie..... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 14:32, 13 April 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Loved it!

] In 140 AD, twenty years after the unexplained disappearance of the entire Ninth Legion in the mountains of Scotland, young centurion Marcus Aquila arrives from Rome to solve the mystery and restore the reputation of his father, the commander of the Ninth.  After an intense battle with the Picts, Marcus sets out across Hadrian’s Wall into the uncharted highlands of Caledonia, accompanied by a local slave called Esca, to retrieve the lost legion’s golden emblem, the Eagle Of The Nin... More

Posted by Dr Lenera at 19:08, 07 April 2011 | Report This Post


Loved it!

Well, I for one loved it. Yeah, it might've not been historically accurate but a) who can seriously say they know the ins and outs of Roman history, let alone the "true story" of the Ninth Legion and b) THIS IS CINEMA! ITS ALL MADE UP! Who cares if its historically accurate? The action sequences were great, Channing Tatum surprised me and I really enjoyed his and Jamie Bell's performances. The soundtrack was interesting, the cinematography atmospheric, and I adored the bromance. Yeah, they did ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Pittsy at 22:23, 04 April 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Truly dreadful...

Pretty good night out at the cinema. I could live with the variety of accents, and certainly found myself caught up in flow of things. Very nicely shot, Real sets(for a change) and a nice performance from Jamie Bell. SPOILER TO FOLLOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wasn't too keen on the bromance of the last 30 seconds or so. I mean - really?! It could have been lifted form Top Gun! ***1/2 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by film man aidy at 14:07, 31 March 2011 | Report This Post


Truly dreadful...

I went to see this the other night, as a film fan, as someone passionate about history, and as someone who adored the actual book by Rosemary Sutcliff as a kid. I have to say that it was one of the worst movies I've seen in a long time... I like Kevin MacDonald's earlier movies, and thought the last King of Scotland as excellent, but he seems to have lost the plot and turned a great adventure story set in Roman Britain into a gritty polemic on American imperialism. At first I thought the Roman ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by boroghost at 19:00, 28 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Sloppy Seconds

I really enjoyed it, however I can see why many have problems with it. The film does take its time getting going and while others may bemoan it this, I enjoyed the leisurely pace it took in establishing the world our heroes inhabited. I also didn't mind the whole 'American accent' issue. I've read why Kevin MacDonald decided to do this and it makes sense (so the Britons can be British and the Romans can be foreign) and I thought it was handled quite well. However Donald Sutherland wa... More

Posted by Timon at 23:06, 27 March 2011 | Report This Post


Sloppy Seconds

I think Channing Tatum turns in an oddly sympathetic and also, at times, reflective and touching performance. He did not have much to work with in terms of story or anything else for that matter. This is really a "buddy" picture set in ancient Rome between master and slave -- both young men bound by honor or duty... and slavery. After the smash hit Gladiator and the two year mini-series Rome there was going to be more in this genre. But, sometimes more is less... This type of film wa... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by JoseJones at 03:06, 26 March 2011 | Report This Post


Good fight scenes ? That surely depends on whether you think cutting 5 times a second and shaking the camera all over the place makes for a good fight scene. As you'll have guessed, I don't., ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Shaun666 at 19:57, 25 March 2011 | Report This Post


It's Hilarious

Was laughing out loud by the end. The closing scene was just missing a high five as they walked out the door. More people died in the final battle then turned up for it, and there were survivours! A shame as it seemed to start well, maybe I should look out for the original book .   I didn't mind the accents, it was set out all the romans had american accents so it was consistent. Like Enemy at the Gate ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Manny at 13:16, 25 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: I dont think..........

It's OK would've rather it been bumped up to a 15cert with more blood , 1 question why do all the Romans have American accents? before you say because their all American i'm including the great Mark Strong in this. 3/5 ... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 09:40, 25 March 2011 | Report This Post


I dont think..........

.........I could ever go and see a film that has Channing Tatum in it and take it seriously. He should be in GAP advert not a Roman Britain film! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by guysalisbury at 09:28, 18 March 2011 | Report This Post


Quibble

Solid review- one for the DVD methinks. However the main point of posting is that the fate of the Ninth is by no means certain. The evidence thought to suggest that they were shipped to the modern day middle east (inscrptions in northern europe) was actually found to predate the ninth being posted to Britannia and probably dates from a time when the legion was fighting in modern day germany. Solid evidence of the ninth's movements places them in York some years later although that still doesn't ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dapieman at 14:17, 16 March 2011 | Report This Post


Quibble

Solid review- one for the DVD methinks. However the main point of posting is that the fate of the Ninth is by no means certain. The evidence thought to suggest that they were shipped to the modern day middle east (inscrptions in northern europe) was actually found to predate the ninth being posted to Britannia and probably dates from a time when the legion was fighting in modern day germany. Solid evidence of the ninth's movements places them in York some years later although that still doesn't ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by dapieman at 14:17, 16 March 2011 | Report This Post


Oh why can't we get a great Roman Britain epic? I was so looking forward to this. I agree with Helen O'Hara's blog on Season of the Witch and the same can be said about this film. (I haven't seen this film yet, but just wanted to leave a comment on the review, but now I have to give a star rating to submit this, so that's why there's a rating.) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Enzino at 11:27, 15 March 2011 | Report This Post


Oh why can't we get a great Roman Britain epic? I was so looking forward to this. I agree with Helen O'Hara's blog on Season of the Witch and the same can be said about this film. (I haven't seen this film yet, but just wanted to leave a comment on the review, but now I have to give a star rating to submit this, so that's why there's a rating.) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Enzino at 11:27, 15 March 2011 | Report This Post


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