If you have a hankering for movies about the Roman Empire set in AD 140, you could trundle off to see Kevin Macdonald’s “The Eagle,” I suppose, but you may discover that it tells you a lot more about Hollywood in AD 2011.
Channing Tatum, who is nothing if not stalwart, plays Marcus Aquila, who wants to restore the tarnished rep of his father Flavius, who 20 years earlier led the 5,000-strong Ninth Legion into the highlands of Caledonia, now Scotland, and, to a man, vanished.
When Marcus saves the life of Esca (Jamie Bell), a young British slave, he ends up owning him. Together they make their way into the northern wilds where Esca, back among his people, becomes more foe than friend. Or is he just bluffing to protect the life of the master to whom he owes his own?
There is a third possibility, which is glaringly not dealt with by the filmmakers: The two guys are in love.
However you slice it, “The Eagle” is hokum, but modern-day Scots may get a kick out of the film’s depiction of their ancestors as mud-caked hellions. Modern-day Romans will have to settle for less. Grade: C+. (Rated PG-13 for battle sequences and some disturbing images.)
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