Dave White
The Eagle Review

Dave's Rating:


No girls allowed.

Who's In It: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Tahar Rahim, Mark Strong, Donald Sutherland

The Basics: Young Roman soldier Tatum, seeking to restore his late warrior father's good name, sets off to the northernmost part of England where his father's band of centurions, the 5000-strong Ninth Legion, vanished along with their golden eagle. He takes his British "body slave" (Bell) along for the ride to translate and navigate and together they do whatever it takes to get the talisman back to Rome, including sleeping in freezing rain, killing children and eating raw rats. Moral: restoring your good name in 2011 involves way less effort.

What's The Deal: It's a really earnest adventure set in the second century. And you know what that means. It means you have to tune your brain back to at least the 1950s (it's based on a book published in 1954) or even earlier, to a time when manly honor was positioned above all else (there are no female speaking parts in the film), even if defending that honor meant smashing other cultures in the name of imperialism and forcefully taking what wasn't yours because "the god(s)" told you to. It also means that the master/slave relationship between the main characters, one that eventually turns to loyal, intimate brotherhood, is meant to be taken at face value and not infused with any contemporary understanding of sexual tensions that exist in exclusively male social environments. In other words, yes it's really homoerotic, but shhhhhhhh.

What It Delivers As Payoff For Your Suspension of Everything You Know as a Modern Human Being: It's got its atmosphere down tight. Of course, when you're shooting in the hilly, foggy, wet northern U.K., nature is doing half of your cinematography for you, but still it looks fantastic. And then there's the fighting. It's full of awesome fighting that would be awesomer if it were as realistic and blood-rewardish as last year's little-seen Centurion (a much better, much more brutal film about essentially the same thing). As it is, this one is PG-13 so the sword-fighting clangs loudly but deprives you of actual physical consequences.

Other Agenda Item: Giving Channing Tatum gravitas. That'd be easier to pull off if his face registered something other than stoic blankness. Now, because he and co-star Jamie Bell (the original Billy Elliott) both got their start as dancers, it's full of convincing action, but the acting show really belongs to Bell. There's just more going on there.


Comments (10)

arbiter - 2-11-2011 3:30 AM
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The keyword was "homoerotic" and the key phrase was "no traditional and obligatory love interest(unless Esca counts)"and i was instantly sold! Thank you for reaffirming my desire to see this movie. ^^

MB - 2-12-2011 8:50 AM
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So you're saying it's Brokeback set in second century? Dang

Mark - 2-12-2011 5:55 PM
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Dave, i usually like and/or agree with your reviews, but this particular review was, with all due respect, pathetic. I found it uninformative and untrue (i just saw it today). I admire how you can incorporate hilarity in your reviews, but calling this Brockeback Mountain set in the 2nd century? Really?

Mariano - 2-16-2011 7:46 PM
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It was a fantastic movie! Maybe for your highly developed intellect might not be, but for my simple one it was just an awesome movie..........dick!

mmb - 2-18-2011 7:39 PM
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Just saw it. How disappointing. It had great potential. Here's what it did RIGHT: cinematography and story were epic. It flowed really well. Not choppy at all. Writers Brock and Sutcliff really did a good job. Here's what was wrong: The writers forgot to insert the old style of speech and humor. Tatum used too many modern phrases and verbal jabs. For that matter, Tatum was the WRONG lead character. He has NO personality and therefore leaves Bell to carry the emotional weight in the story. Karl Urban would have done better. And lastly, the ending was HORRIBLE. After almost 2 hours of struggle to bring the eagle back to Rome, they certainly didn't care to make a glorious entrance. It ended in a sarcastic joke!

bholakumar - 2-21-2011 3:26 AM
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Pamela Rader - 2-23-2011 12:08 PM
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Thanks for noticing the missing female voice. Good to read more male film critics taking note of both the absence of female leads and smart, speaking females in movies today. It is 2011, isn't it?

asdfasdf - 2-27-2011 9:41 PM
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Remember the 1990's TV show, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys? Now imagine Hercules and Iolaus as the Roman Tatum and his sidekick. No, this is not a 1950's novel adaptation centered on Pietas, Gravitas and whatever. Wrong! This is liberal america and because two males are on a one way mission to kill, plunder and eye Brit chicks it obviously means we must be politically correct and say something is going on between the two to appease the far, i.e. very far left, Hollywood types - Right. Not kill, plunder and get that damn eagle back that those crazy white painted Iroquois wannabes (err picks of the north) are using to dance around their camp fire at night. Then imagine last years film "The Centurion" for the rest of the film. Enjoy. lol

flynn - 2-28-2011 6:08 PM
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The book had a quite important, smart, spunky female character, and some minor ones. Guess none made the cut.

joe - 5-28-2012 9:14 PM
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I agree with Mr. White on his assessment of the atmosphere of this film. As someone who is interested in ancient British history, I found this movie very entertaining. It was really nice to hear Gaelic (or something close to it) being spoken in a film set in pre-Anglo-Saxon Scotland, (or more correctly, Pictland,) instead of being subjected to actors apeing a modern Scots brogue. (I'm still pissed off about Braveheart!) The costume designer's idea of what the Picts may have looked like was imaginative and creative. The soundtrack was also spot-on. The choice to use Cantaireachd (the vocal form of the ancient Scots art of bagpipe Piobaireachd) was a very nice touch. Kudos to the filmmakers for lending this movie an air of authenticity.

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