Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Eagle

Rated: PG-13

The year is 140 A.D. It's been 20 years since the Ninth Legion went missing in the mountains of Scotland, and it's up to Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) to find out what happened. His own father was the commander of the Ninth, and by discovering what fate befell the fearless leader, Aquila could restore his failing reputation. Crossing Hadrian's Wall and navigating the treacherous highlands of Caledonia won't be easy though, especially since Aquila's only traveling companion is his British slave, Esca (Jamie Bell). Along the way, Aquila will attempt to make peace with his father's memory as he and Esca confront the savage tribes of the land and attempt to recover the lost legion's golden emblem -- the treasured Eagle of the Ninth.

The Eagle was about what I was expecting - better, in fact, because I erred on the side of caution and anticipated for it to be stupid. But it was good. Very close to the book, the few changes they made excellent, and the main characters well cast. Jamie Bell was a perfect Esca. The Romans weren't so convincing, though. Marcus was good - I like who played him, - but the other Romans just didn't feel accurate with their American accents. I know that Romans didn't have British accents, either, but somehow Brits pull it off better. But everything else felt quite authentic, and the Romans themselves are not in it much. I think the makers of The Eagle did their best in accurately replicating dress, weapons, customs, and buildings fit for that time period, continent, and people, and they did a good job.

The story starts out a bit slow and it feels a little disjointed, while they transition between when Marcus settles into his command and then when he goes on the hunt for the Eagle. I wasn't surprised, though - I knew that this part of the story would be a little difficult to translate onto the screen. In books, we Authors have the privilege of summing up day-to-day things in a few words, connecting everything quite fluidly. Doesn't work so well onscreen. But it is a relatively short part of the movie, they did a better job that I was expecting, and once Esca is introduced into the movie, things start to pick up, and when he and Marcus start on their hunt for the Eagle, it's definitely good - all the way to the very end.

If you can't ignore the American Romans and the few spots where the dialogue isn't as spectacular (I could tell when the script shifted from what's actually in the book to where the writers made something up themselves, but this doesn't happen too often), the scenery definitely makes it worth watching. It was, naturally, filmed in Scotland, and they have some absolutely spectacular shots of the highlands. And lots of pretty horses. The music is pretty good, too.

Content-wise, there isn't anything to complain about. They say the s-word only once, and it is pretty easy to miss. There is no sexual content, and while there is certainly plenty of fighting, there is no blood. The hardest part to watch is when Marcus has his leg operated on for a second time (it gets smashed by a chariot in his first skirmish). The surgeon has to reopen the wound in order to remove some shrapnel that is still embedded in it. They show the wound very briefly - not a biggie - and they don't show the operation. Marcus has a flashback of when his father left with the Ninth legion during the surgery, and then it shifts to another scene. Quite different from the book - Rosemary Sutcliff spares some time to describe the operation, and it is painful to read.

I really hope that they will continue to make more Rosemary Sutcliff books into movies. The Eagle of the Ninth isn't her very best book - it's good, but not the best, and I would love to see Outcast or The Lantern Bearers. If they stay true to the book like they did with The Eagle, they will be excellent movies. Can't wait until it's out on DVD!


  1. I'm going to add this to my watchlist, and my reading list.

  2. Definitely should. I wish the DVD would just come out.

  3. I just watched this last night, and I really liked it =) While not exactly like the book, I agree with you that what they changed was very good, and I think in the long run it actually brought Marcus and Esca's surrogate brotherhood into better light. Because I seriously can't NOT like a brother's in arms story. ;) I have to agree that the "American Romans" were a little odd. I feel the same way as you in that it's so much more normal to see British actors do stuff like this and the American accent seems out of place. I'm of the opinion that British actors/actresses do a better job. I liked both how Esca and Marcus were portrayed though.

    The scenery was breathtaking as Scotland usually is, and the Highlands have that "old" feel that are perfect for a movie like this so I'm glad they decided to film it on location and not in Ireland. Not that Ireland isn't as beautiful, but it's not as wild and untamed as Scotland. I also really liked the addition of Gaelic. It's a beautiful language and they did pretty well with it from the few words I could pick out.

    I too would love to see more of Rosemary Sutcliff's books made into movies. I'm probably going to have to buy this one now :P

  4. Glad another person liked this! Most people I bump in to either haven't seen it or are like, "Oh, it was OK." They weren't an Esca-fan like us, I guess. ;) I love "brotherhood" stories, too, and I am so sick of critics saying that Esca and Marcus's relationship is a bromance. Ugh. I like that Jamie Bell kept his native accent for this one, too. In the other movies he's been in, he's had to do a flat-out English accent (or Polish, in the movie "Defiance"). *laughs* Yeah, Ireland would have been pretty, but if a story is based in Scotland, why not film there? Besides, as pretty as Ireland is, the Highlands are somehow different. So bleak and wild, but on so beautiful.

    If you buy The Eagle, one of the deleted scenes is the chariot race Marcus has with Cradoc (it's a way awesome scene; wish they had kept it), and there is also an alternate ending that is, in spirit, closer to how the book ends.

  5. Ugh, why oh why do people always have to ruin brotherhood stories? I know there's so much going around the internet about that. Why can't they just except Marcus and Esca as surrogate brothers?? Oh well, rant aside :P I really wanted to see the deleted scenes but with the "rental addition" apparently you can't :P

    I have to admit that Jamie Bell looked totally awesome in this time period. He looked just like a "real" Briton. I love how sometimes they can choose actors who look like they belong in a certain time period. I always thought Ioin Gruffud looked perfect in the Napoleonic era but I never like him as much in modern movies.

    And I said that about filming in Ireland because there's a running joke about Braveheart being filmed in Ireland because they couldn't get the rights to film it in Scotland :P I guess they've changed their mind ;)


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