At the height of the Roman Empire, young up-and-comer Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) is given his choice of assignments. Surprisingly, he picks a remote garrison in Great Britain, a short distance from where his father, along with a legion of 5,000 men and a golden eagle representing the Empire's power, went missing 20 years before. Soon after, he is injured in battle and is given his discharge from the army. Lost and purposeless, his uncle (Donald Sutherland) purchases a slave named Esca (Jamie Bell) for him and the two become constant companions. When word of the lost legion reaches Marcus, he and Esca set out for the great unknown beyond Hadrian's Wall in an effort to discover the fate of the legion and reclaim the lost eagle.
Here are the top three reasons why "The Eagle" sucks.
1. Channing Tatum is horrendous. I've been wondering aloud for some time now as to what in the name of Jason Statham it is that Channing Tatum brings to the table (beyond the obligatory looks). "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" is literally the only thing I've seen him in that that didn't cause me to begin plotting his murder. Just an awful actor. But I don't really blame him for "The Eagle" because he should have never been cast in the first place. Whoever thought it was a good idea to cast a muscly, hair gelled, American jock type as a hardened Roman commander should be dragged through the streets and locked in the stocks in a place that other casting directors can come and throw rotten vegetables at him/her. Here's a guy who struggles with the subtle nuances of "G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra" so what would make anyone think that he could handle a role like this? There is no way that ANYONE could watch "The Eagle" and take Tatum seriously as a garrison commander. To make it worse, Tatum seems to know this himself and so he tries oh so hard to seem Roman and the result is rigid overacting at its absolute worst.
2. The entire narrative of "The Eagle" could have been compressed into a 15 minute short film. There are approximately three plot points and they're all repeated over and over again. And even the film's main focus, the reclamation of the eagle, is kind of pointless. No one in the whole of the Roman Empire gives a rip whether or not the eagle ever shows up again except Marcus himself and that, in turn, prompted me to not care whether or not the eagle ever shows up again. Perhaps it's Tatum's terrible acting or maybe the script is just crap; I don't know. But I know that there was not one second during the journey of Marcus and Esca that I cared if they found the eagle or, for that matter, if they lived or died.
3. The historical inaccuracies within "The Eagle" are bountiful and egregious. The book it is based upon is referred to as "historical fiction" and I think that's putting it rather nicely. Much has been made about the American accents that each of the actors display but that doesn't really bother me. That never really bothers me, honestly; if you cast American actors, I'd rather them speak normally rather than force a bad accent. No, what absolutely killed me was the manner of historical indifference with which "The Eagle" operates. From the Romans not having any archers in their garrison (dumb) to the honorable discharge (that's the exact terminology) that Marcus is issued after his injury, virtually nothing within this film fits the time period. I'm FAR from a history scholar and I rarely get up in arms about inaccuracies as a whole. But "The Eagle" is so blatant about its disregard for the time period. If you changed costumes to military fatigues, weapons from swords to guns, and the setting from ancient Rome to, say, post-war Europe, you could literally take this script and make it a modern day "find the lost soldiers" film. The dialogue, the terminology, and the events are pretty much what would happen in your average American war movie. It is offensively dismissive of the time period in which it chooses to operate.
Beyond some decent action scenes and quality cinematography, there's almost nothing to like about "The Eagle." It's a complete waste of time that only furthers the negative stereotypes concerning American actors and films.