Journey north of the border with Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell in the thrilling Roman adventure THE EAGLE.

I was excited about seeing THE EAGLE, the latest film from terrific director Kevin Macdonald and it didn’t disappoint. Macdonald’s Oscar-winning One Day in September about the 1972 Munich Olympics is right up there with When We Were Kings as the best documentary ever and his first foray into non-documentary movie-making, The Last King of Scotland was totally stellar and award-winning too.

Jamie Bell as Esca and Channing Tatum as Marcus in The Eagle

Jamie Bell as Esca and Channing Tatum as Marcus

Set in the Roman-occupied Britain of 140AD, THE EAGLE tells of the quest to restore honour to a family and a nation by finding the elusive eagle standard of the title. Based on Rosemary Sutcliff’s book The Eagle of the Ninth (which I now want to read) it was an absolutely thrilling way to spend two hours.

Apart from the boys-own adventure yarn element of the story, you also have an absolutely top-notch cast starting with the central pairing of Channing Tatum like a gentle and determined piece of rough-hewn granite as young Roman solider Marcus Flavius Aquila, and Jamie Bell all grown up from Billy Elliot days but still with that great singular focus as British slave Esca with whom Marcus enters into an unlikely alliance. Then in the supporting roles you have the not inconsiderable talents of the estimable Donald Sutherland as Marcus’ long-lost uncle, Mark Strong who’s brilliant in anything he does as one of the soldiers from the fabled Ninth Legion, Denis O’Hare one of the very best character actors around and great in just a few scenes as an honourable Roman officer, and finally Tahar Rahim almost unrecognisable from his extraordinary performance in Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet except for the piercing stare as a key member of the tribe our main duo meets when they venture north of the border.

It’s all beautifully shot by Slumdog Millionaire Oscar-winner Anthony Dod Mantle – wonderful shadows of light on people’s faces – and superbly visualised by Macdonald. “The eagle is not a piece of metal. The eagle is Rome.” says Tatum’s Marcus and Macdonald brings the same urgency to this tale as he did to his previous recreations of real-life events. Fact or fiction, the man knows how to tell a gripping story.

So strap on your best armour and march to see it!