It's easy, I guess, to come up with explanations as to why our culture remains fascinated with the Roman Empire, 1,600 years or so after its collapse. (Lest you think that this is primarily a contemporary American phenomenon, let's recall that Edward Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" was published in 1776.) It's apparently not quite as easy to make good movies about the Roman Empire, or at least good movies that capture the public imagination, since nobody's gotten it right since Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe's soapy but memorable "Gladiator" more than a decade ago.
Director Kevin Macdonald's mid-budget spectacle "The Eagle" captures a memorable vision of life in 2nd-century A.D. Roman Britain, and Jeremy Brock's screenplay is alive to the Roman obsession with honor and the almost casual acceptance of violent death. But this adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff's much-loved 1954 young-adult novel "The Eagle of the Ninth" bastardizes the source material to no good purpose, ending up with a strained combination of rah-rah, boy-bonding adventure and p.c. cross-cultural exploration. Even so, "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.
See www.salon.com for full review