Who's In It: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Denis O'Hare, Mark Strong
The Basics: This adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliffe's novel Eagle of the Ninth follows Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) as he displays bravery and leadership typical to Centurions. As far as I could tell he is a promising soldier because he is great with a spear and looks appropriately stoic in his helmet with a scrub brush on top of it . There's a deep inner struggle here though, because Marcus' father disgraced his legion by walking into a battle with savages who took both their lives and their big gold eagle on a stick. Marcus, even though he is nursing an injury, takes his slave Esca (Jamie Bell) along with him to right these wrongs.
What's The Deal: There's a lot of cool stuff in this movie--great costumes, gorgeous locations, fantastic fighting, and even killer sound design. But you're wondering how the hot babe got left out of the trailer, right? You can double check me on this one--there aren't any in the movie. Not a one. The only women you see are dirty, dead-eyed women as extras in a village (who are never acknowledged in any way). This makes this movie Winter's Ultimate Guy Flick…unless you happen to notice that there could be a strong undercurrent of romance between the 2 main characters who are dudes. This splits the viewing audience into people who just love watching Centurions do their thing vs. people who like watching men look deep into each other's eyes while they eat raw rat meat. It works on both levels. And for the record I am of the latter half of that group. As for the rest of the movie? It's almost new and interesting, but mostly just hints at some intriguing ideas.
Chicks Dig Scars AND Souls: Although Jeremy Brock wrote the screenplay, he was working from a woman's novel. This pairing has created an interesting vision of the military and how men relate to each other. The fighting is great and there's a decent amount of it, but it's rated PG-13 so nothing gets too crazy. It's the characters that are really on display here, more so than any other "sword and sandal" movie I've seen recently. The movie brings up the notion of honor, loyalty, and trust, although it doesn't delve deeply into it, nor was I really emotionally invested. And then someone yelled "Hold him down! Harder!" and I got distracted from all that honor nonsense.
Let's Talk Tatum: I still can't decide if I want Channing Tatum to be an actor or just a model. As of right now, he doesn't have a real presence as an actor, but darned if I haven't enjoyed most of his films on some level. Step Up showed us he can dance and be a cute boyfriend, Stop Loss taught us that he has something going on behind those eyes, and he even got funny in The Dilemma. On one hand, he entertains me. On the other, don't I deserve more? Am I so used to watching mediocrity that I am willing to let performers be sub par because it's normal? If he was in the Roman amphitheater fighting for his life and I had to give him a thumbs up or a thumbs down, I really don't know which I would choose. Even if he does have nice pecs.