Plot Summary: In Roman-ruled Britain, a young Roman soldier endeavors to honor his father’s memory by finding his lost legion’s golden emblem.
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Writers: Jeremy Brock (screenplay), Rosemary Sutcliff (novel)
Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell and Donald Sutherland
Serious Jest: (Must See) In Episode Beta of the Podcast, I wondered why so many American movies & shows in English about non-English-speaking characters, like Spartacus: Blood and Sand, chose to assign a British accent to those characters. CraigMakk & Chewie responded that it would be totally weird to have ancient Romans speaking in an American accent. I disagreed. Consider this film Exhibit A in my favor. The audience was not forced to listen to Tatum and Sutherland attempt to fake a British accent while playing Romans (I imagine that, because they were playing Romans in Britain, contrast in accent was key), and they were not any less convincing for speaking in American accents.
In fact, I continue to be increasingly impressed with Tatum. Much like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio did, Tatum is bucking a potential pretty-boy typecast by undertaking different, exciting roles that don’t rely on good looks, whether they’re an emotionally unstable drug dealer in The Dilemma, or the gritty, battered & bruised soldier in The Eagle…and he totally commits to those roles, obviously not worried about whether his goo-goo-eyed female fans see him looking whacked out or beat up. As a result, I think he’s gaining respect among a wider range of fans, including guys like me.
The story in this film is also pretty original, and has several twists throughout. The fight scenes are awesome, as well, although a few times I question why the British characters decided to abandon positional advantages to fight Romans with shields head-on (there is a particular forest scene that left me puzzled in that respect).
The movie also takes a serious chance by dispelling the notion of true good and evil in war, despite the main plot being about a soldier trying to regain his family’s honor by rescuing a military symbol. The film openly acknowledges that both sides commit atrocities against the other, and that good and evil really depend on what side of the fence on which you’re standing. This makes it harder to root for Tatum’s character to recover the Eagle, which is arguably a symbol of military conquest over people who were trying to defend their homelands. It also makes Bell’s character potentially less likable, as he is arguably a traitor.
Personally, I feel that taking that chance was brave, and that it paid off, because it will inspire conversations and deeper thinking among those who watch the movie. However, I wish that the film would have gone farther, and had the characters resolve some of those dilemmas, instead of just acknowledging them and moving on with the same plans.