Rated PG-13 for battle sequences and some disturbing images, 114 minutes
This lifeless "Eagle" doesn't fly
First bad sign for a film: it doesn't screen for critics. Second bad sign: it stars Channing Tatum, though in fact the second sign may the reason for the first sign. No more speaking in circles, the handsome but pallid historical drama "The Eagle" crash lands and has trouble getting off the ground early on. Tatum is bland eye candy, even when surrounded by costumes and decent actors like Donald Sutherland, a great actor now doing movies like this one strictly for the money.
In 140 AD, twenty years after the unexplained disappearance of the entire Ninth Legion in the mountains of Scotland, young centurion Marcus Aquila (Tatum) arrives from Rome to solve the mystery and restore the reputation of his father, the commander of the Ninth. Accompanied only by his British slave Esca (Jamie Bell), Marcus sets out across Hadrian's Wall into the uncharted highlands of Caledonia - to confront its savage tribes, make peace with his father's memory, and retrieve the lost legion's golden emblem, the Eagle of the Ninth.
"The Eagle" is a tedious, flavorless affair that's awkwardly staged, unevenly scripted and badly acted. That wouldn't come as a surprise given that one of Hollywood's hottest young stars, Tatum, headlines the film. Slap a Roman costume on him, give him a sword and place him in the middle of some handsome sets, and the guy still can't act. His woefully in-and-out half British accent is the worst this side of Kevin Costner's Robin Hood. Even Robin Hood couldn't save this dreary, uneven film, which has epic aspirations of "Braveheart" or "Gladiator" but is more geared to the Lifetime Channel, given the legions of his female fans that watch him just to watch him.
Jamie Bell, that once eager "Billy Elliot" of long-ago, is better than Tatum though he needs to smile more, and Donald Sutherland, as the uncle figure here, gives another quick take-the-money and run performance that he learned from Sean Connery. The film has a few good action sequences, but the supposedly factual story, based on the 1954 historical novel "The Eagle of the Ninth" by Rosemary Sutcliff (itself a work of fiction), isn't given a great, or even entertaining, adaptation. Instead, we're treated to Tatum's posing and attempts at acting, not to mention a weird homerotic tension between the Tatum and Bell characters.
I wouldn't recommend it, unless you enjoy mediocre historical drama and awkward attempts at good acting.