We have a really great scoop for you! Our superstar writer, Christina Bentley went to London for the premiere of The Eagle last week. She has written a review of the film so here it is:
The Eagle lands in London
Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell butt heads as they search for the eagle standard and the Ninth Legion in this epic Roman adventure ﬁlm.
Young Roman commander Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) travels to Britain, wishing to redeem his fatherʼs honor after he died in battle commanding the First Cohort of the Ninth Legion in AD 120.
Shortly after his arrival, Marcus leads his soldiers to victory after they are attacked and is wounded. Rome rewards him for his bravery and leadership, but ultimately gives him an honourable discharge. During his recovery, he stays with his uncle (Donald Sutherland) who takes him to an amphitheater ﬁght in which a captured slave is forced to ﬁght for his life. Taking pity on him as he refuses to ﬁght, Aquila decides to save his life. Feeling overwhelmed with the duty of caring for his nephew, Uncle Aquila purchases the slave, Esca (Jamie Bell) for Marcus.
Still disheartened from his discharge, Marcus decides to look for the missing Roman eagle standard and unravel the mystery of the Ninth Legionʼs disappearance. As it is rumoured that no Roman can survive beyond Hadrianʼs Wall, he seeks the aid of Esca, who can speak to his fellow Britons on their journey. Even though Esca hates all Romans, he is bound by honor to Marcus for saving his life. The two must depend on each other if they are to survive this perilous pilgrimage.
Having both read Rosemary Sutcliffʼs adventure novel The Eagle of the Ninth, director Kevin Macdonald and producer Duncan Kenworthy shared a mutual passion for Roman history, ultimately seeking to recreate the historical exploits that resonated with them in their youth.
Departing from Sutcliffʼs vision of a lone Roman braving the dangers beyond Hadrianʼs Wall, they decided to introduce a new character, Esca, thus steering the epic Roman “sword and sandals” tale uncomfortably into the territory of buddy ﬁlm.
A risky and curious move to make,The Eagle was released in the wake of another cinematic revival of the Ninth Legion, Centurion, directed by Neil Marshall. Succeeding a ﬁlm whom The Guardian described as “relentless and tipping towards monotony”, it seemed Macdonald was jumping on a sinking ship. Perhaps another new sword and sandals epic wasnʼt palatable to audiences most likely desensitized by 300 style ultra-violence or it just wasnʼt done well.
It is not to say that the story and mythology surrounding the Ninth Legion isnʼt fascinating. The Eagle held much promise as a historical epic ﬁlm, pledging to portray what may have happened to the Ninth Legion and give viewers a glimpse of what life was like in AD 140 for Romans and Britons alike. However, The Eagle ﬂoundered through itʼs less than convincing acting and poor judgements in direction.
Where Macdonaldʼs adaption succeeded Marshallʼs was the resistance of submitting to the ever prevalent male gaze in casting a former Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko as Brigantian warrior Etain. This omission on Macdonaldʼs part may have redeemed his direction but may have ultimately pushed the ﬁlm further into buddy territory.
One of the main themes in the ﬁlm is the dynamic between slave and master, making the ﬁlm heavily dependent on Marcusʼ and Escaʼs relationship. In the beginning, Marcusʼ impulsive attempts to save Esca seemed purely consequential, not to mention completely out of character; only serving to drive the plot forward. Ultimately, the utter lack of chemistry between Marcus and Esca made their relationship seem very wooden and forced, tainting the integrity of the ﬁlm.
Tahar Rahim and Donald Sutherland seemed two of the greatest victims of the ﬁlm. It seemed for all this multilingual skills and training for his role as the Seal Prince, Rahim was overshadowed by Channing and Bell. The presence of acting heavyweight Sutherland seemed to exist only for novelty.
Another Roman casualty, The Eagle could have soared had Macdonald only nurtured the potential and talents of his strong male actors.
Brooks, Xan. “Film review: Centurion | Film | The Guardian.” Latest news, comment and reviews ! from the Guardian | guardian.co.uk 22 Apr. 2010. 15 Mar. 2011 ! <http://www.guardian.co.uk/ﬁlm/2010/apr/22/centurion-review>.
Christina is a recent graduate who received a B.A. in English at the University of Louisville in 2009 and moved to Leeds to embark on her writing career.