Frankly? No. “But this character’s a centurion!”, I hear you cry. Indeed, but either way the category of fighters and realm of such is the same…whichever way you cut it. “Have we seen enough movies involving the good ol’ Romans?”, I hear myself cry. Seemingly not.
Am I sounding a little sarcastic?… Pedantic? ? Apologies if so. I must say that I was a tad tired when seeing this movie, plus other things pressing on my mind…but haven’t we all experienced such moments? 😉 And before you read any more negative-in-tone remarks from me, I will add that I selected “Better than I expected” on a survey following the showing of “The Eagle”. It’s just that I feel it could have been better.
I guess that as openminded as I like to be – both in life and film-viewing – I often know what kind of film may not be my cup of tea [no different to most people there] and that tends to make me sit there with an internal smile & trying not to think of ‘comical’ what-if scenarios in that movie.
The opening scenes and titles are stylish enough & indeed not ‘amateurish’ and knowing that this new film is from the director of The Last King Of Scotland [which…I’ve not seen as yet but it was raved about & complimented everywhere, I believe] I was expecting such experienced, & perhaps grand filmmaking.
The movie moves into setting the scene, characters and the like. Formulaic but necessary. I was focused a little on what seemed like varying accents though – was this Scottish, English, American or Irish I was hearing – either way, it was not Roman.
The first main character is here by now, a one Marcus Flavius Aquila [*snigger* even as cosmopolitan as I feel I am]. Marcus is played by Channing Tatum – a fantasy love-child of Tatum O’Neal & Stockard Channing? – and he acts accordingly…I mean both as he should as a centurion and actor.
Next, we need an elder to teach Marcus perhaps the difference between right and wrong … But would Marcus listen always? Or would he go against his elder’s wishes? I mean, the story would have to adhere to both these suggestions wouldn’t it, surely, so as to push such a protagonist forwards.
[This is a good time to mention that this film is based on a book and therefore such screenplay structure would originate from these writings.]
The elder whom I speak of is none other than Donald Sutherland. Now, I can’t think of him seriously, or at least when hearing his voice, thanks to The Simpsons – the episode “Lisa The Iconoclast” where he plays Hollis Hurlbut, a devotee of Jebediah Springfield.
Anyway. Onwards. On to a miniature amphitheater – way too small for Russell Crowe and his ego – where a slave is brought out to fight with…err…a Gladiator? Of course, it’s not Mr Crowe…but who is that slave…? Yes, it’s little ol’ Jamie Bell.
Again, although I was doing mu best to take this movie seriously and not think of humorous things, this did not stop me thinking of Jamie Bell and of course is most popular role as, yes “Billy Elliott”. Thus, after centurion ‘Marcus’ influences the crowd in the amphitheater to not have this slave beaten or even killed, and Donald Sutherland’s character turns to him and asks “Why did you save him?” I couldn’t help but answer for him, with… “Because he’s a bloody good dancer!” [and if that weren’t enough, I had toyed with jesting how his screen-name of Esca was short for – or a nickname for – yes, you guessed it…Elliott!]
Back to seriousness. The film has rich colours and some beautiful scenery, even if looking a tad airbrushed. Apparently, Jeremy Brock (writer of the screenplay and adapted from a book by one Rosemary Sutcliff) also penned the script for Mrs Brown and The Last King Of Scotland. Now, I’ve seen Mrs Brown and loved it. TLKOS, though, I can not vouch for script & dialogue-wise. I would say, for this film at least there was little originality in words exchanged between characters (especially Marcus and Esca) and instead some dialogue seemed to have been taken from the much-used book called “Lines To Use If Stuck For Original Dialogue”.
Lastly, I did notice in at least one of the small battle scenes the use of Ridley-Scott-style so-fast-that-you-can’t-make out what’s-happening editing. It’s not REM but perhaps RSM (Rapid Scene Movement)…?
Of course, it could have just been my eyesight. I sometimes wish I had eyes as good as…oh what’s that bird of prey called…?
*The quote at the start of this review, “Do you like movies about Gladiators?” is a nod to, and a line from the film “Airplane!”
On a serious note:
The above showing was an exclusive preview screening of “The Eagle”, in aid of the Household Cavalry Operational Casualties Fund: