The Eagle is a 2011 adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff’s definitive historical classic ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’. Directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland and Touching The Void amongst others), The Eagle tells the story of Marcus Aquila and how he discovers what happened to his father’s legion – the Ninth – which was lost (Eagle and all) in mysterious circumstances North of the border.
Channing Tatum (whom I last saw in Step Up – yes, the dance movie is my friend) acquits himself solidly as young centurion Marcus. His phenomenally huge neck (seriously, it’s MASSIVE) is only mildly distracting as he starts his new command at a garrison. He’s a big, muscle-packed dude who seems haunted by what happened to his father. It’s an interesting mix and one that comes across well in the opening act of the movie.
Due to circumstances, Marcus finds himself invalided out of the army and is forced to spend some time at wicked-eyed Uncle Donald Sutherland’s house. I love Sutherland. Please can we have a spin-off with him as a Roman? It would be brilliant.
Marcus manages to end up with a new slave Esca; the enigmatic and distinctly aesthetically pleasing Jamie Bell (probably best known for Billy Elliott – again, yes, the dance movie is a genre I know well). There’s a little bit more of Tatum-Trauma (“My Daddy, my daddy”) before him and Bell head North to restore the reputation of Channing’s pop and the legion, yo.
The Eagle is great but the accent issue is ridiculously distracting. It’s perhaps best described as John Wayne does Gladiator. It becomes so glaring that it’s impossible to ignore. Donald Sutherland seems so gorgeously amused by the whole thing (“I’m doing period? Get out!”) I’m willing to forgive him, but the moments in the deepest darkest North are a little bit harder to stomach.
The Eagle reaches a lot deeper in the book than perhaps it was allowed or able to reach in this adaptation. Issues such as honour, and the fractured nature of Britain at that time, are fascinating and worthy of greater attention. We also lose a lot of the rationale behind Esca’s actions which makes his support for Marcus’ actions come across as a bit, well, random.
The Eagle is a perfect Sunday afternoon movie after you’ve had a huge roast. Do note however that if watching with children, there’s violence and a fairly obvious beheading scene. There’s also a graphic scene involving implied violence to a child. It’s rated 12 and if you have sensitive youngsters, I would suggest discretion would be the better part of valour regarding this.