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dir Kevin Macdonald
scr Jeremy Brock
prd Duncan Kenworthy
with Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Tahar Rahim, Mark Strong, Douglas Henshall, Denis O'Hare, Paul Ritter, Julian Lewis Jones, Ned Dennehy, Dakin Matthews, Pip Carter
release US 11.Feb.11, UK 25.Mar.11
11/UK Focus 1h54
Into the wild: Rahim, Bell and Tatum
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
This beefy tale of male bonding is framed by a story loosely based on historical accounts from the 2nd century. The plot may be corny sentiment, but the movie is rousing entertainment, with two engaging leads.
In 140 AD, Marcus (Tatum) arrives in Britain, the far end of the Roman Empire, where he's charged with fending off local insurgents. But he has a secret agenda: to reclaim the golden eagle of the missing ninth legion, which was led by his father. As he recovers from a battle injury, his uncle (Sutherland) buys him feisty slave Esca (Bell). And then when they hear rumours about the eagle's whereabouts, Marcus and Esca set off to Caledonia to retrieve it. And when they meet a savage Seal prince (Rahim), Esca must become the master.
Unsurprisingly, Macdonald films the scenery (of Scotland and Hungary) spectacularly, with Anthony Dod Mantle's visceral camerawork positioning the characters against staggeringly beautiful landscapes. And while Brock's script is packed with speeches about honour and duty, it's the relationship between Marcus and Esca that grabs hold, perhaps because it's played with muscular gusto by Tatum and Bell as two men with daddy issues who essentially fall in love. The film could have been titled Brotherhood of the Skirt.
In this essentially female-free movie, it's all about manliness, with lots of glowering and physique flexing, plus a bit of wild overacting from time to time. Although any gay subtext is of course quickly averted by the next battle sequence or clunky plot element. There's an attempt to add some complexity to the Seals, Britons and Romans, as all are guilty of brutality, although the script carefully drops in something that lets us know who to root for in each scene.
As it goes along, questions about the nature of barbarism and the cruelty of conquest are sidelined for more Hollywood-style priorities like cool make-up and costumes, grisly violence (that pushes the PG-13 barrier), daring feats of bravery and loyalty, and surging emotional sappiness. But through all of this, it's the growing connection between these two men (and the superbly physical and resonant actors who play them) that makes the movie impossible to dislike.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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