Well, Kevin Macdonald fans are not going to like me. First I hated his YouTube mashup Life in a Day at Sundance. Now I’m not going to have very nice things to say about his ancient Roman battle movie the eagle. On the other hand, I LOVE Kevin McDonald from “The Kids in the Hall.”
In the year 120 AD, the 9thLegion of Rome invaded Britain. 5,000 men vanished in a humiliating operation. So they built Hadrian’s Wall to keep the Britons out. All this happens before the movie starts. It’s in the opening text.
The real story is that Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) is the son of the leader who botched the battle and los the eagle of Rome in British territory. He tries to redeem his family by leading the Romans to defend Hadrian’s Wall, but that doesn’t work. So he needs to seek redemption by venturing into Britain to reclaim the Eagle.
I think we can all buy this eagle statue as a symbol of national pride. War movies have rabble roused over less specific patriotic symbols. It’s a pretty weak and ridiculous plot that one guy is going to redeem a whole army by finding an object in some large unspecified territory.
Marcus’s guide through Britain is Esca (Jamie Bell), a slave Marcus saved from gladiatorial death. They bond and learn from each other, even when the tables turn and Esca has to pla the master to impress a tribe of mud-coated mohawked warriors.
Perhaps this nonsense would be okay if there were some impressive battles to speak of, but the action is terrible. It’s shot in such the handheld extreme that you really can’t even see anything. A few of the battle formations are Braveheart lite. Marcus leads a squadron with shields in the front, stabbing through the gaps at any enemy brave enough to climb aboard. It still looks like guys in the woods doing historical re-enactments.
It’s just so boring all along the way. The battle talk is lame. The Eagle is Rome and honor and blah blah blah. But Esca has seen the cruelty of Roman warriors. Both sides in war are bad, get it? There are stories of painted warriors of the Seal People who hack off their enemies’ feet so their souls can’t walk to the afterlife (souls sure do give up easy. I would roll to the afterlife.) It’s all so serious, it’s no fun and it’s not fascinating enough to be interesting.