The Eagle (2011)

The Eagle is the newest film by Kevin Macdonald based on Rosemary Sutcliff‘s novel, starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Mark Strong and Donald Sutherland.

Marcus (Channing Tatum) has to work very hard to wash his name clean, ever since his father disappeared north of Hadrian’s wall with an entire legion and the famous golden eagle that was its standard. And Marcus is quite successful in the army until he gets injured. His uncle (Donald Sutherland) takes him in and even buys him the slave Esca (Jamie Bell) as a present, to cheer him up. But Marcus won’t rest until his family’s name is restored. And so he takes Esca, who grew up in Scotland, and they head north to find the eagle.

The movie is a badly directed, racist pile of crap – but at the same time, it’s also its own slash fanfic and that makes it incredibly entertaining. Still, one can’t help but wonder how Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland and even Mark Strong got involved in this…

I’m not the world’s hugest reader of fanfics but I enjoy slash, so it might not be only the filmmakers when I say that this is probably the gayest film I’ve ever seen – and that doesn’t even notice how gay it is. It’s wonderful and brilliant and I can’t believe that nobody noticed but it’s just not the kind of film where they would have left it that way had they noticed its gayness.

But anyway, apart from the mental images involving naked Jamie Bell and naked Channing Tatum, this movie doesn’t provide much fodder for thought. Which would have been perfectly okay if they had just left it that way. But they had to go and come out the other end and become really stupid. And quite offensive.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about racist and xenophobic drivel coming out of Hollywood but in the density it appears here it’s still quite astonishing. The picts are barely human at all in this film and Esca is only okay because he takes on the clothing, language and honor code of the “civilised” world. The aggressive invasion and the genocide committed by the Romans is quitely glossed over and it’s generally just headdesk-worthy.

But apart from the political issues I had with it, it’s just not a particularly well-executed movie. Channing Tatum can’t act at all, Donald Sutherland doesn’t act, Mark Strong is in uberacting ham-mode and Jamie Bell is all alone in giving a damn. Kevin Macdonald apparently adheres to the acting philosophy “if you can’t see what’s going on, at least you don’t spot any mistakes” and accordingly the action scenes are incomprehensible jumbles.

Summarising: Maybe Centurion is better? It seems doubtful, but it can hardly be any worse.


  1. Oh yes, this sucked, on sooooo many levels.
    But I was most disturbed by the fact that Kevin Macdonald did this. The man is a really good director…usually.
    Maybe he was ill? If he was, then he has to get better, quickly, because OMGWHAT?!?

    Re: gayest movie. Nah…I have seen “Top Gun”, and this, Ma’am, is no “Top Gun”. (And then there was “Alexander”, which is a whole different bag of manly shoulder squeezes.)

    • They also call Centurion “vastly underrated”, but I read a Genevieve Valentine review of that film, and it seems that, if possible, that one wasn’t nearly underrated enough.

      • One can’t but wonder, sometimes. Really? I mean, I’ll admit to Channing Tatum having a “impressive physical presence” but everything else… I mean, seriously, no.

        I still want to see Centurion. But mostly because Michael Fassbender is talented and extremely hot.

  2. I think it’s incredibly sad that that is how you saw the movie. Is it the worlds best? Heck, no. But it is an incredible depiction of the hatred that lies in peoples hearts, the hatred they are bred with and born with and how they see the enemy and not what they themselves are doing. The Romans rape the tribal women, the Seal people cut off the feet of the Romans . . . I’m not quite sure where the racism is–it seems like they did a pretty good job of showing that everyone was hateful and bitter but that the Romans had indeed started it. They even humanized the seal prince at the end by showing his face with all the makeup cleared off–reminding the audience that yes, he killed his son, but he had a people and a culture and humanity–which happens to be something that it takes the viewer a while to realize about Marcus, especially as he killed the child earlier in the movie and was eager to kill the prince’s son.
    The homosexuality of the movie: is it easy to write slash fics? Duh. Then again, what movie isn’t? Especially a guy movie, especially and guy friendship movie. I’m sorry, there is no homosexual theme. This is the story of how hard it is for two (attractive) men to overcome their hatred and become best friends. To see anything else is just twisting something pure and beautiful.

    And I really am sorry you saw it the way you did. To me, it was an incredibly beautiful story about how deep the societal thread of racism runs and how hard it is to overcome.

    • Your interpretation of the racism issue is, of course, as valid as mine. I think that they tried to go where you say they went, I just don’t think that they arrived there.

      I, on the other hand, find it incredibly sad that you think suggesting that Marcus and Esca might have been in love is twisting something pure and beautiful – why would their relationship somehow become less by them being in love (or only fucking)?

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