The StoryIt's been 20 years since his father, Flavius Aquila, led Rome's Ninth Legion into battle and seemingly disappeared into thin air, and Marcus Aquila is bent on restoring his family's honor. Marcus is a fierce young man, driven to succeed and driven to be the best commander possible. Given a fortress to defend, Marcus prevents a sneak attack which could have wiped out the entire company, earning the respect of the seasoned veterans serving under him. In a further show of leadership and bravery, Marcus launches a brazen attack on a druid tribe who have kidnapped some of his men and are holding knives to their throats outside the fortress' walls. The attack leaves Marcus critically wounded and his men transport off the battlefield to the safety of his uncle's home to mend.
While being nursed back to health, Marcus is given an honorable discharge from the military which means he can now be a man of leisure (albeit one with a nasty limp). But Marcus isn't ready to settle down.
After saving the life of a slave in the gladiator arena, his uncle (played by Donald Sutherland) purchases the aggressively angry young man to help Marcus get around. Marcus and Esca are both proud men, holding fiercely to their beliefs that their people are on the right side of the battle. However because Marcus has saved his life, Esca feels beholden to serve his enemy to the best of his ability. And when a rumor begins to circulate that the Ninth's Eagle has been spotted with a tribe far in the north of the Highlands of what's now Scotland, Esca (who knows the territory and the language) is compelled to accompany Marcus on a two-man mission to retrieve the lost standard - and to maybe find out what actually happened to the men of the Ninth and Marcus' dad. Although it's thought to be a suicide mission, Marcus and Esca take off to the hostile territory north of Hadrian's Wall. And as they come to depend on each other, a grudging sort of respect and friendship develops between the two enemies.
The ActingTatum knows how to play a soldier and he's able to handle himself well in the physically demanding fight sequences, as is Bell who's not known for action films. Both deliver solid performances and have genuine chemistry. Their shared background in dance seems to have come in handy and was put to good use in the choreographed fight sequences. It's just a shame the fights don't seem lethal but rather like dance numbers where all the beats are hit perfectly.
Supporting Tatum and Bell are Donald Sutherland as Marcus' uncle, Mark Strong as a mysterious figure (we won't spoil his character's background for you by going into detail) Marcus and Esca encounter on their quest to find the Eagle, and Tahar Rahim (The Prophet) as a vicious member of the Seal People tribe. All are fine in their supporting roles, in particular Strong who's on the screen for less than 10 minutes and makes quite an impact. Strong elevates the mediocre material he's been given to work with and elevates the work of his young co-stars in their shared scenes. But the star of this film - the man who steals the show - is Anthony Dod Mantle. You'll remember his work as the cinematographer far longer than you'll remember the storyline or fight scenes of The Eagle.
The Bottom LineDirector Kevin Macdonald made the interesting choice of having the Romans speak like Americans, thus Channing Tatum doesn't adopt an accent but rather alters the manner in which he delivers lines. The fact Macdonald opted to go with a formal American dialect for Tatum's character makes his delivery come off as stiff. And it's a little weird and disconcerting to hear all of the Romans talk, but that's probably due to the fact we're so used to hearing Romans with British accents in films. The American approach didn't work for me because it didn't jibe with the costumes, but I can understand the reasoning behind Macdonald's decision. As screenwriter Jeremy Brock explained in the film's production notes, "We drew an analogy between Roman imperialism and the supremacy of the American military in the world today. It affords us a clear and concise paradigm which the audience will grasp; the clash of cultures is clearly projected in the difference of accents.”
The Eagle was directed by Kevin Macdonald and is rated PG-13 battle sequences and some disturbing images.