Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald
Honor. What comes to mind when you read this word? Does it make you swell with pride? Do you think about the things you believe in? Would you choose between life and death for the sake of honor?
“The Eagle” is a story of a young man who regards the concept of honor as something very serious, sacred even. His name is Marcus Aquila and he is a Roman soldier. Marcus is dispatched to head a troop of soldiers as a commander for the first time. He wants to succeed and make a name for himself, because he does have a past that haunts him. His father was also a soldier and belonged to the Ninth Legion in Scotland. After being attacked by enemies of Rome, Marcus’ father lost something very special to their country: the Eagle of the Ninth, the golden symbol of Rome.
Unfortunately, Marcus initially doesn’t have much of an opportunity to prove himself because he is injured and “honorably discharged” from the service. Wounded and feeling hopeless, a new opportunity arises for Marcus when he learns that the golden eagle has been spotted in Britain. The soldier now has a chance to regain his family and country’s honor. There’s only one catch: his sole companion and travel guide for the trip, Esca, is also his slave. And he’s a Briton. Feeling torn between his own honor, freedom, and loyalty, Esca too must choose what (and who) he is willing to die for on a perilous journey to find and reclaim the eagle.
This film is interesting in many aspects. First, the cinematography and directing is very beautiful. The movie is almost entirely composed of sweeping shots of the land and an emphasis is placed upon the harshness of Marcus and Esca’s environment. Kevin MacDonald (“The Last King of Scotland”, “State of Play”) impressed me with his intriguing camera angles and his “eye” kept things fresh visually.
Secondly, “The Eagle” is not your average “Gladiator” or “300”-type movie. The violence is kept to a minimum and language is mild and scarce. Also, (whether it’s a good thing or not) the film is devoid of any romance; the story instead solely focuses on Marcus and Esca’s mission.
Besides honor, the film’s core message is one of loyalty. Even though Esca is a slave and is sometimes talked down to by Marcus, he chooses to stay by his side when he finds himself in a position where he can choose otherwise.
If you’re looking for an intense, action-packed free-for-all, then “The Eagle” is probably not for you. This film is for those who want a new take on a period-piece such as this and perhaps want to be challenged to think about what honor means to them personally.