Films on the Roman empire have always had a special kind of attraction with the modern world. People can’t seem to get enough of it.
Classics like Ben-Hur in 1959 and Spartacus in 1960 were released onto the world, and have since become inextinguishable from our collective minds. These tour-de-force pictures came with a costly price to ensure that authenticity would be integrated in each and every single moment of the film. Everything you saw on the screen was really real!
Beautiful extravagant costumes all around, archaic arenas and fortresses were rebuilt from scratch on a life-size scale to bring back the Roman world, and last but not least: the weapons used back in the day were also completely remade such as spears, shields and swords.
In the same fashion The Eagle tried to reshape a similar historical image of Rome on the turn of the previous century, much like many of its predecessors.
And yes, much like the other movies, everything is also authentic here. The entire Roman outfits look nice, the arsenal of knives and daggers of every legionnaire as well as the enormous mosaics of this movie are a joy to watch.
The crew of this movie had done a marvelous job!
Which is why it’s such a pity that the casting of this action picture allows for the quality to drop like a dead bird from the sky. Neither the director nor any of the actors leave behind a strong impression. All that blood, sweat and tears to recreate the ancient Roman Empire and let it appear as realistic on screen as humanly possible – it’s all destroyed by the presence of a bunch of feeble acting performances.
Director at hand is the previously unknown Kevin Macdonald who only has one decent movie in his entire oeuvre: The last king of Scotland.
The camera positions he adopts for this movie is pretty neat at times, but never impressive enough to keep you fully awake. And just like most average directors working in Hollywood today, he too makes the classic mistake of showing the action too fast on screen through a turmoil of headache-provoking camera-shots, almost like he’s shooting an MTV video-clip. It’s all going so incredibly fast with short sharp cuts from one moment to another that you cannot enjoy this movie in a relaxing manner …
The story told isn’t doing much better – at times it sinks into its own ocean of mediocrity.
What starts as a pretty impressive tale on bravery and self-sacrifice soon becomes a spun out survival trip about two guys who have to find some distant Roman legion that got lost … or something.
But that isn’t even the worst part!
If you can snatch class-act craftspersons like Donald Sutherland and Mark Strong to appear in your movie – actors who’ve clearly proven time and again they are amongst the very best working in the system today – why oh why would you choose to cast 2 actors who are a lot of things, but actors they are not!
Channing Tatum has a career that’s about as interesting as the underwear of Madonna. His two biggest successes are some failed wannabe-Dirty Dancing-project that never really got off the ground, and there’s also a completely redundant teenage trash movie called She’s the man.
Agreed, the young man has enough physical leverage with the ladies to make ’em all scream out loud, but against a large scheme of a historical drama he simply runs aimlessly from one scene to another without really grasping the reality of it all.
Furthermore, any raw emotion Channing Tatum tries to express seems void and unconvincing.
Maybe it’s a sign saying he better sticks to lighthearted comedies for giggling school girls.
The obvious better actor of the two is British upcoming talent Jamie Bell. He surprised friend and foe at the age of 14 by playing the unusually vulnerable role as a male ballet dancer in Billy Elliot, and also shone at the side of James Bond-actor Daniel Craig in the ever-unappreciated war drama Defiance.
Jamie Bell tries as hard as he can to mold this mess into a digestible movie, but his part is so one-dimensional that – even with 3D glasses – you still couldn’t find any character depth.
And seeing as how he simply does not possess the same acting skills as Leonardo DiCaprio or Natalie Portman, the pressure on his shoulder only becomes more unbearable, to the point where he collapses under its weight along with the rest of this easily-forgettable war movie.
Furthermore, the movie isn’t afraid to use a few worn-out cliches which decreases the quality of the movie even further.
Let me explain: towards the end a single character is hardly able to stand on his two feet from exhaustion, but two minutes later he’s suddenly able to oppose the most fearsome and skilled fighter in the entire movie. Yeah, right!
did you know?
Jamie Bell never rode a horse before filming this movie. He had to learn on set.
Give it to me short:
The Eagle is far from bad (I’m being generous, that’s all) but there is so much room for improvement, a skilled director wouldn’t even know where to begin.
It all starts promising, but suddenly – as if the filmmakers lacked the energy to complete their movie – the entire story along with its characters drops in quality like a broken elevator in a skyscraper!
After an hour or so, there is hardly anything worth hoping for. This Roman epic story might’ve earned its place in the history books – the filmmakers may consider themselves lucky if anyone is going to remember this movie by next year …