Sunday, July 14, 2013
The Eagle Lands!
The Eagle is a movie that grabbed my attention when it was briefly advertised a few years ago. It looked like a solid period movie with some above average sword and sandal action. I didn't actually get around to seeing it until just last night. It's a first-rate movie experience. The movie is an adaptation of a 1954 novel by Rosemary Sutcliffe titled The Eagle of the Ninth.
Channing Tatum and Jame Bell are superb in the the twin lead roles of Marcus Flavius Aquila and Esca. Marcus played by Tatum is a young Roman Centurion fresh to the British outposts sometime after the construction of Hadrian's Wall where he distinguishes himself before being cashiered by the Roman military. He, though wounded, still is sad that he has not gathered sufficient glory to restore his family honor which was damaged when his father and the whole Ninth Legion disappeared years before taking with them their Eagle standard which symbolized Rome itself. Bell as Esca is a moody British slave who owes his life to Marcus and so the two despite their cultural antipathies and stations in life form a rough-hewn comradeship. They go to seek the Eagle standard beyond Hadrian's Wall and the story well and truly begins.
What makes this tale so gripping is that it is played as much as modern movie rules allow for real. The action is within normal human bounds, and doesn't devolve into mere "action" as life and limb are always in jeopardy. The story develops at a pace which is resolute but never slow despite many quiet moments. Neither does the movie feel compelled to offer up even a token romantic element, which would've only distracted from the central themes. There is a lot of unspoken acting in this one which serves well to sell the authenticity of the situations. The settings are convincing, damp, compelling, and often beautiful.
The only weakness for me was the use of Donald Sutherland, an actor who I am so familiar with that he unfortunately never completely disappears into his characters. His presence is a small distraction in the mosaic of realism the movie strives for. It's not actually realistic, but it seems to be. Mark Strong is on hand in a role which is brief but pivotal and while he doesn't have the screen time of others, you will remember him.
The Eagle is a movie which should be seen by anyone who loves adventure. This is a top-notch example of a kind of movie which has all but disappeared among a cattle call of vapid and twitchy video-game fests. This movie offers a bit more psychological nutrition than most modern sugar-high flickers.