A lost cause
Direction: Kevin Macdonald
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell
It's the mid second century in Roman-ruled Britain. A young centurion is about to embark on a quest to restore his family's honour and retrieve the titular emblem of Rome's pride.
Fusing elements of Ridley Scott's Gladiator (2000) with more recent historical epics like Troy and 300, the plot essentially follows the formula for sprawling swords'n'sandals sagas. Disappointingly, director Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) fails to generate the kind of excitement demanded by the genre.
Based on a popular young-adult novel, The Eagle is a touch dull enlivened only occasionally by violent skirmishes and the breathtaking Scottish locations. Subtlety is not one of the script's strong points as can be seen by the long stretches during which the characters merely growl at each other.
The core relationship between the Roman centurion (Tatum) and his Celtic slave (Bell) unfolds along predictable lines even after their roles are suddenly reversed. Amid the relentless brutality, it is difficult for actors to have much of an impact.
The Eagle leaves us longing for a revival of the vintage soldiers-and-slaves spectaculars like Spartacus.