I haven't gone to the movies for a bit, as nothing playing in the theaters was enticing enough to stir me out. But I'm a sucker for sword and toga epics, so I had to see "The Eagle." It was worth the visit, I thought.
Channing Tatum plays a young centurion who asks to be sent to Britain for his first field command, in hopes of restoring the reputation of his family after his father, also a military commander, had disappeared in a northern expedition, his entire legion gone missing together with its gold eagle standard. Tatum has barely begun whipping his outpost fort into shape when an armed confrontation with hostile natives results in his being severely wounded and involuntarily retired with honor. He is taken to his uncle's villa for medical treatment and recuperation. His uncle takes him to the local arena to watch a gladiatorial exhibition, during which he saves the life of a young British slave, played by Jamie Bell, by convincing the crowd to turn thumbs up when the defiant youngster refuses to defend himself against the gladiator in the ring. To his dismay, Tatum's uncle buys the slave and gifts him to his nephew. At a dinner with the local officialdom, Tatum learns that there are rumors that the missing golden eagle standard has been spotted in the possession of a fierce northern British tribe. He vows to head north to recover the eagle, and reluctantly takes the young slave with him, as his uncle argues he can't make the trip alone.
That's all the tale I'll tell, so as not to include plot spoilers in this account. But I will say that I found the film to be very entertaining, rather faster on its feet than the deprecating NY Times review suggested. I don't think Tatum has the acting chops yet to carry a movie like this, but Jamie Bell can act rings around him and really steals the movie, as far as I was concerned. There is plenty of action, magnificent location photography, and a story that is at least barely plausible. At any rate, in prospect it was much more appealing than anything else now playing (aside from the winding down of the runs of some Oscar prospects), and so worth a visit for your movie-starved writer.