Rosemary Sutcliff‘s The Eagle of the Ninth has long been a set text for boys of a certain age, and Kevin Macdonald’s sword-and-sandal-swinging screen adaptation The Eagle (2011, Universal, 12) doesn’t stint on the kind of action beloved of this core audience. While Neil Marshall’s similarly themed (and underrated) Centurion descended head first into an enjoyably gruelling bloodbath, Macdonald’s adventure does a canny job of suggesting great violence while reining in the explicit visuals just enough to secure an all-important 12 certificate.
The impressively versatile Jamie Bell (whose finest work remains the sadly little seen Dear Wendy) makes for an engagingly conflicted antihero as the slave who must do his master’s bidding in the service of an unrepayable debt – leading Channing Tatum’s Roman legion north of Hadrian’s Wall in search of the titular lost emblem. While the result may lack the depth and complexity of Sutcliff’s source, it still adds up to a breast-beating romp packed with muscular battles, manly conflicts and meaty moral dilemmas.
Breast-beating romp, muscular battles, manly conflicts, meaty moral dilemmas | Mark Kermode | The Eagle DVD
24/07/20112011 by Anthony Lawton