Wild-eyed, long-haired Brits leap atop the Romans' shields as the soldiers blindly hack away, the bodies so close that you can barely tell the victor from the vanquished. The battles in the fog and rain have a hallucinatory power.
Too often in "The Eagle," in which the Romans are played by American actors and the Britons are played by Brits, Tatum comes off like "second Roman warrior from the left" rather than "Roman warrior the film is about."
Tatum has the strong-jawed good looks and stoic demeanor of a natural-born movie star. What he lacks is a sense of inner life, a spark of internal fire: When the camera trains on him, you can practically hear the wind whistling through his head.
"The Eagle" would be a lot more enjoyable if it weren't for the utterly incoherent action scenes and the side-of-beef performance from rising young hunk Channing Tatum as its supposedly brooding and wounded hero.
To its credit, the film does attempt to grapple with the ambivalence that Europe and America feel toward the Roman Empire. We admire its cultural achievements while condemning its brutality, and in that tension we see our own ideals and failures reflected.
A codpiece-and-crossbow saga of relentlessly exciting battle sequences sandwiched between tedious, unconvincing chatter about cantankerous centurions, fiery feudal warriors and camera-ready six-pack abs modeled by hunky pinups...