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Customer Review

109 of 118 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Eagle- For the Fangirls, February 23, 2011
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This review is from: The Eagle (DVD)
Loosely based on Rosemary Sutcliff's novel The Eagle of the Ninth (The Roman Britain Trilogy), with its sweeping cinematography and the hauntingly atmospheric score by Atli Orvarsson, this movie set in Britain 140 AD starts as a slice-of-life military drama and quickly twists off into epic adventure. Though billed as some sort of soldier/daddy-worship epic, with nary a woman in sight, this movie unravels into an amazing bromance that seems more like a love story between two young men from different walks of life than anything else.

Marcus(Channing Tatum) is forced out of his career as a soldier by battle wounds received while defending his first command post in distant Britain. The son of an infamous Roman commander who marched 5000 men into northern Britain and subsequently vanished, Marcus's dream of winning back his family's honor through soldierly deeds is summarily crushed by his discharge from service. Languishing in civilian life in his uncle's villa, Marcus' hatches a plan to win his family's honor back with the help of his Briton slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), by different means. Marcus will find the eagle standard of his father's lost legion by traveling into the hostile unconquered northern lands (Caledonia, or modern day Scotland) and Esca will lead the way. The tension and conflict between The Eagle's two main characters powers the movie along to its surprisingly up-beat conclusion.

It is a rare treat to see a movie that takes place in pre-Christian Britain. The costuming is impeccable and the people are gritty, filthy and refreshingly normal looking: no magic Hollywood showers or supermodel background characters ruin the believability of the time and place this movie hearkens to. As far as visual storytelling goes, I was impressed that so many plot points, shifts in attitude, and changes in relationships were indicated by simple glances, a change in wardrobe or what a character happened to be holding in a scene, without any dialogue whatsoever.

The strengths of this movie lie in its visual story telling, its pacing, and in the acting skills of its secondary characters. Jamie Bell gives an incredibly believable and understated performance as Esca. One of the most heart wrenching moments is the movie (and unquestionably the best acted monologue) is Esca's tale relating the fate of his family. There is no flowery verbage, no dramatic shouting, yet this simple soft-spoken monologue brought tears to my eyes. Tahir Rakhim's portrayal of the Seal Prince (a group of people entirely invented for this movie) was also done with staunch realism and believability. The inclusion of Gaelic dialogue was a pleasant surprise that helped emphasizes the social and cultural differences that existed between the people of the British isle and the Roman invaders at that time. It was with the Roman actors that I felt a bit of a disconnect, finding the mannerisms and verbal ticks of Strong, O'Hare and Sutherland to be a little too modern, though Sutherland's up-beat performance was remarkably refereshing in an otherwise emotionally heavy movie.

I'm very fond of this movie but will admit its most immediate faults. A common historical inaccuracy is perpetrated in the gladiator scene, with the thumbs-up/thumbs-down being reversed. I fear that this may be a mistake the movie industry never rectifies. And while the movie holds together beautifully up until the final battle with the Seal People, around then the dialogue gets clunky and loses some of is brusque magic. Guern's " I just have to tell you real quick yer dad wasn't a coward" speech as well as Marcus's pyre speech made me cringe a little. Both were very heavy-handed and awkwardly performed. Also, a rather large plot hole was torn open with the murder of the Seal Boy. Are we actually to believe that while chasing Marcus and Esca down on foot, the Seal Warriors carried this kid along just to kill him? After the boy is laid down in the water, he is never seen again. Guern receives a hero's send off, and the child Esca befriended is nowhere to be seen. I doubt the boy's murdered needed inclusion at all. If his death was only to induce Esca to fight, was already fairly reasonable to believe that because of their bond, he would have fought with Marcus anyway.

Overall, this movie is visually stunning and emotionally intense without being melodramatic (at least until that end bit), and so I happily recommend The Eagle to history buffs, fangirls and fangirls of history. It may not be perfect, but The Eagle has the rare ability to transport a viewer to another time and place for two hours. Give it your time, and you will certainly be amused.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 22, 2011 8:54:13 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 22, 2011 8:54:27 AM PDT
The Seal People were in Sutcliff's 1950s novel, actually--they are meant to be the historical Epidii, a 2nd-century Scottish tribe, although the way the movie portrayed their culture was pretty much entirely made up (and we don't know that much about them to start with) and more like a generic "savage" stereotype than anything we know of Iron Age Britain..

Posted on Jun 12, 2011 5:58:56 AM PDT
Kenneth Sohl says:
I'm lead to understand that the "thumbs up/down" thing is not definitive and that controversy exists on that point.

Posted on Jun 29, 2011 1:39:21 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on May 8, 2014 3:14:03 PM PDT]

Posted on Jul 15, 2011 5:15:00 PM PDT
R. Huffman says:
Excellent review. A bit wordy, but still I feel like I know a bit of what I will be getting when I rent it tonight. Thank you for a well written piece.

Posted on Sep 6, 2011 8:06:38 AM PDT
I couldn't agree more with your point about "Seal boy". They showed the Seal Warriors as fantastic runners, as they moved swiftly in pursuit of Marcus and Esca. I had the exact same thought....."they really brought that boy with them all that way just so they could kill him in front of Esca?" Also, from what I saw the boy could have been asleep (or pretended to) and they would have never known he saw Esca and Brutus leaving. I really hated to see him lose his life for helping someone, especially cause he was just a little boy. I just wish they would have left that out.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2012 5:54:51 PM PDT
You are right, but since the dialog is "translated" from Latin to English, it seems appropriate that the gesture be translated (if thumbs up did actually mean death -- and vice versa), otherwise it would be misunderstood.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 27, 2012 9:06:27 PM PDT
Kenneth Sohl says:
Thumbs up - "Hooray! We get to see a death!" Intuitive.
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