Le­gion of

Scots ver­sus Ro­mans in epic his­tor­i­cal saga “They slit throats of chil­dren” Gwyneth’s on song COUN­TRY STRONG (12A)

Evening Express (City Final) - The Guide - - BIG SCREEN - By Da­mon Smith Su­san Grif­fin

ABRAVE and no­ble son atones for the sins of his fa­ther in Kevin Mac­don­ald’s swords and to­gas epic, based on the novel The Ea­gle Of The Ninth by Rose­mary Sut­cliff. Set in the wilds of 140 AD Eng­land and Scot­land but partly filmed in Hun­gary, The Ea­gle pits the might of the Ro­man Em­pire against the bar­barism of the in­dige­nous tribes, who slit the throats of their badly be­haved chil­dren. Chan­ning Ta­tum strides man­fully into the breach as the emo­tion­ally and phys­i­cally scarred hero of the hour, cop­ing well with the rigours of Jeremy Brock’s screen­play that in­cludes some bone-crunch­ing battle se­quences. A skir­mish be­tween the le­gion­naires and the hea­thens at the be­gin­ning of the film, the lat­ter charg­ing into the fray on char­i­ots with blades af­fixed to wheels, is thrillingly cap­tured by cin­e­matog­ra­pher An­thony Dod Man­tle and edi­tor Jus­tine Wright. Blood and mud spat­ter the cam­era lens as swords clash and sinews rip­ple, at least one sol­dier los­ing a limb as those horse­drawn car­riages scythe through Ro­man de­fences. Un­der­pin­ning the bar­barism is the un­likely friend­ship be­tween mas­ter and slave, whose dis­trust must be put to one side as they ven­ture north of Hadrian’s Wall, in search of a mil­i­tary tro­phy. In 120 AD, the en­tire Ninth Le­gion dis­ap­peared with­out trace in Scot­land and its stan­dard, a golden ea­gle, was lost for­ever to the eter­nal shame of Rome. The com­man­der of those sol­diers also van­ished and 20 years later, his son, Mar­cus Aquila (Ta­tum), ac­cepts a post­ing in Ro­manoc­cu­pied south­ern Bri­tain in or­der to learn the truth about his fa­ther’s demise. The young sol­dier is badly in­jured pro­tect­ing his men and he re­cu­per­ates with the

Gwyneth Pal­trow and Tim McGraw.

Gwyneth Pal­trow, Gar­rett Hed­lund, Tim McGraw.

SET in the glitzy world of coun­try mu­sic, Gwyneth Pal­trow plays a su­per­star singer who’s bat­tling her in­ner demons and the bot­tle. Fol­low­ing a stint in re­hab, she em­barks on a tour or­ches­trated by her hus­band and man­ager James (played by coun­try star Tim McGraw), that’s sup­posed to mark her great ca­reer come­back. Only things don’t pan out as planned. The lead ac­tors do their best with what they’ve been given. help of his un­cle (Don­ald Suther­land) and slave boy Esca (Jamie Bell), whom Aquila saves from cer­tain death in the gla­di­a­tor’s ring. “I hate you and ev­ery­thing you stand for but you saved my life, and I must serve you,” seethes Esca. Once he has re­gained his strength and mo­bil­ity, Aquila heads north in search of an­swers ac­com­pa­nied by Esca, a mem­ber of the tribe of sav­ages re­spon­si­ble for slay­ing the Ninth. The Ea­gle hinges on the rap­port be­tween the leads and Ta­tum is im­pres­sive, bring­ing a brood­ing phys­i­cal­ity and emo­tional vul­ner­a­bil­ity to his role. Bell pales by com­par­i­son but gets his mo­ment to shine in a touch­ing scene, when Esca de­fies the or­ders of Aquila and re­fuses to leave the Pal­trow in par­tic­u­lar puts in a strong per­for­mance as the al­co­holic star, suc­cess­fully por­tray­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity and diva-ish ten­den­cies, even if she does look rather fresh-faced. It’s the script and direc­tion that ul­ti­mately let the cast down and the blame can only be laid at the feet of writer and di­rec­tor Shana Feste. This is only her sec­ond fea­ture and it shows. FAM­ILY WATCH: Swearing, Sex, No Vi­o­lence.

CLASH: Jamie Bell faces a gla­di­a­tor in The Ea­gle.

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