How far would you go for your family’s honor? To the ends of the earth?
In the early second century, the Ninth Legion of Rome marched into the mountains of what would become modern-day Scotland and disappeared without a trace. Twenty years later, a young centurion named Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) returns with the intent of restoring his family’s honor since it was his father who commanded the Ninth. To succeed, he’ll have to cross Hadrian’s Wall into a savage land, trust the advice of a British slave named Esca (Jamie Bell) not to give his mission away, and steal back the golden emblem of the lost legion, the Eagle of the Ninth.
On its surface, The Eagle is about family honor, but at its core, it’s a buddy bonding film. The initial effect of hearing second century Romans speaking in a modern dialect with American accents is noticeably distracting, especially since “the bad guys” are all translated or subtitled. This is in stark contrast the pornographic poetry spoken by the cast of “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” but ultimately forgivable. The combination of battle tactics, subterfuge, and mystery solving while master and slave become friends and equals makes for an enjoyable story.
From the very beginning of the film, meeting Channing Tatum’s Marcus is enough to know something is about to go down. Perfect for that “actions speak louder than words” kind of hero, Marcus’s first real victory quickly becomes his last, creating a conundrum in how to restore his family’s honor when no longer in a position to do so. With the seeds of self-sacrifice already planted, accidental death in an attempt to restore honor is preferable to dying slowly as a young man retired to a villa. Even when things start to go badly, the conviction to the task remains.
The biggest name in the small production appears to be Donald Sutherland, so it’s understandable why this film was dropped into an early February counter-programming release date. But aside from the Marcus’s second in command sounding as though he owns a used car business in midtown, The Eagle is an entertaining film about redemption, honor, and friendship. Of course, screaming tribesmen and sword battles never hurt, either.
(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)