The Eagle Review
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So many Oscar winners have already made their way to theaters during this year’s Movie Dead Zone that it’s almost depressing. From Ron Howard’s head-scratcher, The Dilemma, to Michel Gondry’s mediocre superhero adventure, The Green Hornet, 2011 has already been a pretty rough year for widely-acclaimed directors (not to mention Oscar-winning actors like Anthony Hopkins). Now, the latest director to take an unfortunate fall with a completely forgettable new release is The Eagle’s Kevin Macdonald (who shares an Oscar for directing the 1999 documentary, One Day in September).

Twenty years ago—in 120 A.D.—Rome’s Ninth Legion marched into Scotland and was never heard from again. Now, its commander’s son, Marcus (Channing Tatum), has arrived from Rome, eager to restore his family’s honor and return the legion’s legendary golden eagle.

After the young centurion is wounded in battle and honorably discharged, he’s sent to the home of his uncle, Aquila (Donald Sutherland), to recuperate. But when he hears a rumor that the eagle has been spotted north of Hadrian’s Wall, he sets out with only his slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), to fight at his side.

No matter what you might expect from the guy who directed The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, Macdonald’s latest film, The Eagle, is little more than a bland adventure—an awkwardly-acted film about characters that you won’t really care about going on an epic journey, during which very little happens.

Tatum’s Marcus could have been a memorable hero in a story about strength, honor, and determination. Instead, he’s just another arrogant, short-sighted soldier who gives no thought to things like trust or strategy. He crosses into enemy territory without giving it a thought—convinced, of course, that he’ll fare much better than his father and his 5,000 trained soldiers. Along with him, he brings his slave, Esca—a young man that he seems to trust implicitly (and completely beyond reason) until things get tough (at which point he quickly changes his tune). And, instead of carefully planning how they’ll handle the situation, he seems to take a “kill first, ask questions later” kind of attitude, which has to be kept in check by his level-headed slave. He comes off as another dim-witted meathead with a smart sidekick (a bit like Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet, actually). And Tatum’s flat performance (complete with a strange, intermittent accent) definitely doesn’t help his cause.

As for the story, it’s pretty much the typical adventure, with predictable storylines, tight, disorienting action, and way too much filler. Of course, if you’re just looking for a film filled with scowling men engaging in ancient Roman swordfights, you’ve come to the right place. But as a period adventure by an Oscar-winning director, The Eagle fails to take flight.

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