I have to admit to having exaggerated hopes for this movie. The director, Kevin McDonald, directed The Last King of Scotland which I really enjoyed. As well as State of Play which I watched on a train from Portland to Seattle once and found myself weirdly getting into it despite the presence of both Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck. That's a lot of lunky, meatheaded acting going on but he managed it pretty well. I also love swords and shields movies. They always disappoint but here's hoping.
Unfortunately, Channing Tatum, in the lead role, proves too much of a lunky meathead to overcome in the Eagle. Seriously, Lauren leaned over to me in the middle of the movie and said, "This guy is such a lunkhead. I had to concur wholeheartedly. He was fucking terrible. Though, to his credit, it's not like he was good in some other movie and now here he is disappointing us. And I seriously doubt if he'd turned in an amazing, affecting performance he could've saved the movie.
There are problems from the get go. When the main character, whatever the hell his name is, shows up in his new command post somewhere in Great Britain it seems remarkably casual. All the actors have American accents. But not just American, dumb, lackadaisical American accents. The soldier who was acting in command is like, "Uh, hey man, here's the keys, and you have to pay the guys. Oh, and the toilets don't work. Haha, later." We find out that his dad was in charge of some legion that was overcome North of Hadrian's Wall and lost some big gold eagle standard that apparently meant a lot to everyone in Rome. I find it hard to believe that the people running the Roman empire cared that much about it. We're led to believe it is a huge travesty though. But I could've lived with all that.
What I couldn't take was the depiction of the Romans as protagonists, fighting a good fight. Why would we want to watch the oppressor oppress? How could they expect us not to want to side with the indigenous Britons? By making all of them seem like bizarre, uncivilized savages that's how. It was pretty offensive. It reminded me a lot of old westerns, you know of the Cowboy and Indian school of film making. The Roman characters are all sort of cast in our image, making it easier for us to follow and root for them.
Yet, throughout the movie Jamie Bell's character, a native Briton slave, gives us reasons not to side with the Romans. He continually points out their murderous, rape and plunder ideology, even giving a detailed account of his own father forced to murder his mother so as not to be raped by the invading Romans. And then he follows him blindly on a fool's quest even though he could have just ridden off on his horse whenever he wanted after the get North of the wall. It was like they were telling us one thing but showing us another throughout the movie. I wasn't sure what the director wanted us to think. I found Jamie Bell's character to be unrealistic at best. Even though his performance was probably the best in the movie.
Then there was a host of continuity problems that I don't even want to get into. As well as Donald Sutherland playing, weirdly, almost the exact same role he played in The Mechanic and some other hammy acting. There was one saving grace in the movie though, the cinematography. The images of England were amazing. If the director had removed all of the dialogue from the movie I might have enjoyed it. But he left it in since that sounds like a movie a crazy person would make.