The Eagle

February 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Channing Tatum, Jaime Bell, Mark Strong
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald (“State of Play”)
Written by: Jeremy Brock (“The Last King of Scotland”)

If it was possible ignore the inconsistent accents, the hammy dialogue, or the cast full of men playing dress up in 2nd century Roman costumes instead of fleshing out authentic characters, then maybe “The Eagle” would feel more like a fictional epic and less like a second-rate miniseries found on Starz after midnight. Without the sex and the campiness, what’s the point?

Instead, “The Eagle,” directed by Kevin Macdonald (“State of Play”) based on a script adapted from Rosemary’ Sutcliff’s 1950s novel “The Eagle of the Ninth,”  takes itself entirely too serious. With a lifeless Channing Tatum (“The Dilemma”) taking the lead, the whole production feels like a charade in Roman warfare.

In “The Eagle,” Tatum plays Marcus Aquila, a young Roman centurion who sets out with his British slave Esca (Jamie Bell) to learn the truth behind his father’s disappearance and tarnished legacy. To bring honor back to his family’s name, he plans to go out and find a symbolic golden eagle, an emblem once carried by his father when leading a 5,000-man legion known as the Ninth.

The plot never expands from there making Marcus’ search for the statue feel more like a high school scavenger hunt. While the numerous battle sequences do their best to keep the action high, Macdonald’s decision to shoot the sword-weilding scenes so chaotically is a misstep. By the third bloodless combat scene, they all start meshing together and lose interest.

Without any depth to the screenplay and some unintentionally humorous homoerotic character interaction, “The Eagle” is all brawn and no bite. Tatum may have that leading man screen presence, but with a script this weak, his frat boy looks can only get him so far. In “The Eagle,” body armor, a wool tunic, and sandals are about all that define him.

Defiance

December 28, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jaime Bell
Directed by: Edward Zwick (“Blood Diamond”)
Written by: Edward Zwick (“The Last Samurai”) and Clayton Frohman (“The Delinquents”)

British comedian Ricky Gervais might have been only kidding around during this year’s Golden Globe Awards ceremony when he told actress Kate Winslet that critical acclaim will always come when an actor stars in a Holocaust movie, but with the onslaught of films on the topic released last year, one or two of them were bound to miss the mark on historical captivation.

While Holocaust films like “The Reader” and “Valkyrie” produced fine material in their respected genre, others like “The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas” and “Defiance” do not hold interest for their entire runtimes. Although a true story like “Defiance” is an amazing anecdote on the surface, director/co-writer Edward Zwick has trouble creating an interesting community for his characters to thrive, which is basically the entire premise.

Actors Daniel Craig (“Quantum of Solace”), Live Schreiber (“The Manchurian Candidate”), and Jaime Bell (“King Kong”), play the Bielski brothers – Tuvia, Zus, and Asael – three Jews who escape Poland and hide out in the Belarussian forest for two years during World War II. There, the men create a “forest camp,” a makeshift society of other exiled Jews who are trekking through the woods to flee the Nazis. As their numbers grow, the Jewish survivors begin to form not only a new community to live in, but also a rebellion to fight back.

Adapted from the book “Defiance: The Bielski Partisans” by Nechama Tec, the idea that 1,200 Jews were able to evade death for two years is quite incredible and definitely a noteworthy chapter for any world history book. But as a film, Zwick and company horde the film’s characters into a tedious collection of one-dimensional throwaways in a talky and thematically unbalanced script. There’s no denying that “Defiance” is a film about bravery, but when the courageousness of an army is illustrated by how many soapbox speeches one can deliver, audiences can definitely count on an excessive waiting period before there is a satisfactory conclusion. It’s not until Zwick stops riding the break, however, when that actually happens.

Jumper

February 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Hayden Christensen, Jaime Bell, Rachel Bilson
Directed by: Doug Liman (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”)
Written by: David S. Goyer (“Blade”), Jim Uhls (“Fight Club”), Simon Kinberg (“X-Men: The Last Stand”)

Imagine not having to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic, being able to wake up five minutes before an important meeting on the other side of town and getting there on time, or traveling anywhere in the world without ever buying a plane ticket. With the power of teleportation, you could do all of that and more. That’s exactly what David Rice (Christensen) does in the new slick-looking but prosaic action flick “Jumper.”

During a near-death experience, David’s life is spared when he somehow teleports away from danger and to another location. With his new-found talent to travel beyond space and time – and because he is unhappy at home with his verbally abusive father – he decides he can survive on his own by “borrowing” a few bucks from the bank and getting his own place. Hey, if you could move in and out of anywhere without opening a door, wouldn’t you visit a vault?

Flash-forward eight years and David has perfected his skill to teleport across the world. From having lunch on top of the Sphinx in Egypt to surfing the biggest waves in Fiji, David can do anything he wants with the power that has been granted to him. His trouble-free life, however, is interrupted when he finds out he is being hunted by a man whose soul purpose in life is to kill “Jumpers” like himself.

Roland (Jackson), who has been searching for David ever since he heard about his first bank robbery, is part of a unit of hunters known as Paladins. Unbeknownst to David, Jumper and Paladins are at war with each other and have been for thousands of years. Call it jealously or call it their mission, Paladins hate Jumpers because they feel no one should have the gift Jumpers do except God.

Now on the run, David returns home and visits his childhood crush (Bilson), who he strikes up a relationship with again by wooing her with weekend trips to Rome. The script is at its weakest here as David is never questioned about where he has been for the last eight years. Everyone thought he was dead, but who cares now? When you have an endless supply of money and can charm a girl by flying her out to the most extravagant cities, you can get around just about anything.

Excessive on the special effects but sputtering tremendously on the storyline, “Jumper” is illogical and a poor attempt at science fiction. Where the movie could have found its appeal was through David’s actual leaps through wormholes and dimensions. Instead, it becomes a drawn-out chase scene with far too many plot holes and flimsy characters.