UK Release date: 25th March 2011
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 25th February 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
I remember the book on which this film is based from Junior School. It is called ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’ by Rosemary Sutcliff; I mention this because I never actually read it. I remember seeing it on the school library shelf but never seemed to have the time to sit down with it. Well, as time passes (and if you wait long enough), I knew that eventually somebody would make a film of it. Well, enough time passed and that somebody, Kevin Macdonald, finally did! I will tell you what I thought about it after this very brief summary.
The Ninth Legion, lead by the father of Marcus Aquila, had disappeared somewhere north of where Hadrian’s Wall was subsequently built about ten years before the events in this film took place. Hadrian’s Wall marked the northern edge of the Roman Empire in Britain. Marcus Aquila followed his fathers’ footsteps into the Roman army and, having been injured in action was relieved of his post. His uncle took him in while he recovered from his injuries and it is here that he forms the idea of recovering the Eagle of the Ninth Legion and restoring his family honour. A slave, Esca, a Briton, is to accompany him and it is Esca who will teach Marcus Aquila what honour means on this long and dangerous journey. I will not say and more or the Spoiler Police (Roman Division) will be selling me off to a Lanista (again)… A Lanista (hope I spelled that right!) is a manager of gladiators by the way.
Although it is well shot I did find the landscape and most of the settings did look quite depressing. Maybe that’s deliberate to make it more menacing, but if that was the case it didn’t really work (for me). There were some nicely choreographed fights scenes though. All the performances were pretty good although nobody really shone; so honourable mentions go to: Channing Tatum as Marcus Aquila, Jamie Bell as Esca, Donald Sutherland as Uncle Aquila, Mark Strong as Guern and Tahar Rahim as Seal Prince.
I saw a version of this that was cut for TV, giving it a 12, rather than a 12A (as the theatrical release) certificate. Four minutes were cut and, I’m guessing, these were the more gruesome scenes. The trouble is this made the film so tame that, quite frankly, I got bored while watching it. Maybe I’ve become hardened to it over the years, but I found this was toned down a little too far for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, I would have no complaint if the narrative kept my interest, but even that kind of lost the plot (excuse the pun) in a few places. I guess the bond between Marcus and Esca was never sealed to any degree and so I found it all a little unconvincing in the end. It’s a shame because I really wanted to like this film, but I felt sadly let down by it… NOT recommended.
My score: 5.4/10.
IMDb Score: 6.2/10 (based on 23,201 votes at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 38/100 (based on 143 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 43/100 (based on 37,533 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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Marcus Aquila: Marcus Flavius Aquila, Fourth Cohort of Gaul, Second Legion, come to relieve the command.
Lutorius: Lutorius Drusillus Salinator, acting senior officer.
Marcus Aquila: Where's the garrison commander?
Lutorius: He left this morning, sir. Couldn't wait to get away.
Marcus Aquila: He's not a slave. And he knows more about honour and freedom than you'll ever know.
Esca: So what now?
Marcus Aquila: You decide.
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
Official Site: http://focusfeatures.com/the_eagle