Combustible Celluloid
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With: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong, Denis O'Hare, Julian Lewis Jones, Simon Day, Tahar Rahim
Written by: Jeremy Brock, based on a novel by Rosemary Sutcliff
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for battle sequences and some disturbing images
Running Time: 114
Date: 02/09/2011

The Eagle (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Stormy Feathers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Oscar winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (One Day in September, Touching the Void) has had mixed results with his fiction movies (The Last King of Scotland, State of Play), and his rather impersonal approach doesn't suit this stodgy historical action movie. It takes a while to get going, but then it has a promising idea: the "road trip" with the two enemies-turned-friends. However, the film fails to really narrow its focus on these two, and instead ponders larger issues, such as honor, glory, war and freedom. The humans get lost in the shuffle.

In 140 AD, during the Roman occupation of Southern Britain, a soldier, Marcus (Channing Tatum), lives in the shadow of his disgraced father, who disappeared along with his entire legion many years earlier. In doing so, he lost the "Eagle" of the title, a symbol for Roman glory. After being heroically wounded in battle, Marcus recuperates with his uncle (Donald Sutherland) and rescues a slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), from a deadly battle. Unable to live with disgrace any longer, Marcus decides to take Esca and journey into enemy territory to find the fabled Eagle, thereby restoring his father's good name and setting things right. What Marcus doesn't realize is that the journey will teach him more than he ever could have realized.

The movie has a heavy, gray look and it's mostly humorless; it delves into the battles with grim resolve (and choppy editing), and it's not clear if the violence is supposed to be fun or cautionary; if it's the latter, then there's an awful lot of it, and it's tiresome. Fortunately, in his small role, Donald Sutherland strikes a nice, cheerful tone that -- in larger doses -- might have made the movie more fun, or at least campier.

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