Saturday, February 12, 2011

Review for THE EAGLE

Channing Tatum as a Roman centurion and he's NOT dancing? Hmmm...

When I heard that Channing Tatum was going to be playing a Roman centurion, I had some doubts.  Tatum in the past has played a tough guy dancer, a kind-hearted street hustler, and a soldier who has found we know that he can play a teenage girl's fantasy.  Now the question is, can he really strap on some armor, take up a sword and shield, and try to find and recover a lost artifact that represents an entire nation?

The movie first starts out with a title card sequence explaining the set-up.  In the year 120 A.D. the 9th Legion of Rome, a group of five thousand soldiers, went out on a campaign towards the northern part of unoccupied Britain.  Along with them they take an artifact known as the Eagle, a symbol of pride and conquest for Rome.  However, while on this campaign the legion mysteriously disappears and the Eagle along with them.  There has been no word since then on their location.  Twenty years later, Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum), sets out to a fortress in the area around Britain, in effort to restore his family's honor, since his father was the one who led the 9th and was the one who supposedly lost the Eagle.  After a few days there and a short, but pretty entertaining battle in which he saved a group of his soldiers lives, Marcus is injured and taken to the home of his Uncle Aquila.  After the battle, he is honorably discharged due to his injuries and can no longer fight in the army.  This upsets Marcus greatly, because he specifically chose that fortress since it was the closest place where the Eagle was seen last.  However, there is hope, because now there is word of the Eagle being sited past the Hadrian Wall, a structure built (according to the movie) to mark where the world ends.  Marcus decides that he must venture out and see if these rumors are true, and with him, he takes a British slave named Esca, played by Jamie Bell, who played in Jumper as Griff, and you may remember playing in Billy Elliot, AS, Billy Elliot.  His uncle warns him that Esca cannot be trusted, seeing how he's British, but Marcus puts those warnings aside, since he saved Esca's life before he was executed in a Gladiator battle, and by doing that Esca has sworn a debt to Marcus.  Now, the pair sets off into uncharted lands and try to find the 9th legion or the prized Eagle.

This film, is actually hard to write about.  It does a lot of things well, like the setting, the action, and some, to most, of the actors had good (not great) performances.  However, it's the little things that have me on the fence.  One of the things I'll nip pick at is the supporting cast.  Now, they don't do anything bad, it's just they were either miss casted, playing a role they probably haven't played before, or it's just they don't try hard enough to make me believe their performance.  I'll give you an example; Dennis O'Hare, who you might know from season 2 of HBO's original series True Blood as Russel Edgington, but if not that, he was also in The Proposal and he played Mr. Gilderston, that goofy/strict INS agent.  Now, based on the second performance, take out the weird part of the character, and you have the role he's in in this film.  He doesn't really change his voice or tone of speech, he just kind of acts the way he usually does.  Now this could work for, maybe a police officer or maybe a military figure set in the present, but if you're playing a Roman centurion, then try and play the part.  Surprisingly, Channing Tatum does an alright job doing this.  He does sound like he's kind of forcing it out, and on occasion (but not too much), he'll let his real voice slip out, but still, he was committed to his role.  I think the best performance has to come from Jamie Bell.  His character seemed like that one that you could trust and hate if given the situation.

The next thing I liked about the movie is the location.  The film is beautifully shot, in a vast landscape filled with gorgeous mountains and rolling hills the far the eye could see, but, we don't get to see too much of it, as the second act takes us into a gritty mountain area, filled mostly with gray and earthy colors, which isn't to appealing to me.  The ending fight does take play in a pretty cool spot under some trees and next to a river and if you happen to be on a hike or something, and you wanted to make a slight detour to see mother natures beauty.  It's that kind of terrain.

The last thing I'll really comment on is that there is a fair amount of action from what I saw.  There were some moments where the movie slowed down and I was starting to lose some interest, but the action was paced pretty well to give me the right amount of action and drama.  Other and better movies, like Gladiator, does this kind of thing better, and audiences might prefer a movie like that to this, but I was moderately entertained by what I saw.  It did however suffer the old technique where the camera shakes along with the fighting, which gives me a headache now and then, so people in the same boat as I'm in will not like that.

I don't know what was historically accurate or what was fictionalized for the movie, but this film could be the diamond in the rough in the string of bad movies that usually come out between January and February.  If you get a chance, I say check it matinĂ©e price.


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