Universal // 2011 // 114 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // June 21st, 2011
Esca: "How can a piece of metal mean so much to you?"
Marcus Aquila: "The eagle is not a piece of metal. The eagle is Rome."
The Eagle came and went from theaters quickly and mysteriously, which is ironic when you consider that the plot is about a legion of soldiers disappearing without a trace in the Northern parts of the United Kingdom. It's a Roman epic starring young dancer/model Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), and I wasn't expecting it to be a moving mini-epic about two men journeying to the end of their known world. On DVD it may get the second life it deserves with more people getting to see it.
Marcus Aquila (Tatum) is a Roman soldier who journeys to occupied Britain on a mission to salvage his family honor. His father disappeared with five thousand of his men when they went on a campaign up in to the area now known as Scotland. Worse than vanishing, the men lost the golden eagle which was the symbolic standard of the Roman army. Marcus journeys with his British slave (Jamie Bell, Billy Elliot) into the savage area to find the lost emblem. Can they trust each other enough to make it back alive?
The film itself is not a bad little action flick and it feels gritty and authentic. I wouldn't have expected a serious Roman soldier drama starring two dancer heartthrobs to work as well as this does. Tatum was the lead in Step Up while Bell played the titular lead in Billy Elliot, so they aren't likely candidates for a sword and sandal epic that should have starred the veterans of 300. Yet somehow they both pull it off well, and the story is engaging enough to make it a worthwhile two hours. The fights feel real, the scenery looks gorgeous, and the emotional thrusts play out authentically.
On DVD, you get a great transfer and extras that have been thought out well. It looks to be the same content as what is on the high definition edition, so there's not much lost other than resolution if you pick the traditional format. The transfer looks just fine with great black levels and pitch perfect color saturation. The five channel surround audio mix renders the fight scenes to make you feel like you are in the middle of the skirmish. You get both the PG-13 and unrated cuts, which just means you can get seconds more of battle gore in some sequences. Extras include an alternate ending that was wisely left on the cutting room floor and some other deleted scenes including a chariot race sequence. There is a short but well-constructed making-of featurette. Commentary is provided by director Kevin Macdonald, who does well solo and gives us all the scoop on the production.
Had you told me they were developing a movie starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell, I would have guessed it would be some breakdance versus ballet "you got served" battle in the Bronx. But The Eagle is a serious Roman Empire drama about two men bonding over what amounts to a suicide mission in the wilderness. It works well enough to check it out on DVD, and it comes in a nice edition with plenty of good supplements. This one is nice discovery, if you missed it in the multiplex, and the intimate narrative may even work better on the home format.
Not guilty, for exceeding all expectations and breaking the cast out of their flashy dance backgrounds.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Theatrical Cut