Film: The Eagle

The Eagle is a 2011 film based upon the Rosemary Sutcliff historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth.

A young Roman soldier named Marcus Flavius Aquila goes on a quest to find the eagle standard of his father. It is loosely based on the mystery of the real Roman Ninth Legion, which disappears from the historical record after having last been mentioned as present in Scotland in the early 2nd century.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Marcus, played by Channing Tatum.
  • An Aesop: Honor Before Reason is both good and bad, as it's the reason why Esca and Marcus survive through the film, but the things done in the name of avenging honor are shown to be violent and possibly ultimately pointless.
  • Artistic License History: The director of the film admits the "Seal People" are supposed to be based upon Inuit people, and the Scottish locals, whatever they are trying to represent, borrow more from Native American prop and costume design than Celtic.
  • Bait and Switch: When he recovers the Eagle, Marcus engages a masked figure who'd earlier been displaying the Eagle. The man wears the ring of Marcus's father, and Marcus has discovered that some Romans have turned British. He rips off the mask...and sees it's just the Seal King. To finally settle the matter, the Seal King responds to Marcus' demands saying that he took the ring after killing his father, who implored for his life like a coward (he does so in his own language, which Marcus does not understand, and Esca gives a false translation to not hurt his companion).
  • Big Brother Instinct: Esca seems to feel a degree of this towards the Seal Prince's son, probably due to him missing his own younger brothers who were killed by the Romans.
  • The Cavalry: The Ninth Legion, coming to Marcus' aid at the end before the Seal warriors attack.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The chin-strap scar. First crops up in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot, then is repeatedly used as an identifying mark for Roman legionaries.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than the original novel. The film ups the amount of actual fighting considerably from the original novel, nor was there any infanticide originally.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Tribal warriors with war-paint and suspiciously Mohawk-ish haircuts chasing after someone from another tribe and someone from The Empire across miles and miles of unspoilt wilderness: Last of the Mohicans much?
  • Genre Savvy: Marcus shows himself to be this fairly quickly within his first days on the frontier. Paywagon doesn't arrive? Something must have happened to it. Send out a patrol to search. Hear noises in the night that your men dismiss as cows? Then where's the mooing? Rouse the garrison, quietly. These do things very well to earn his men's respect.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We see the young boy only from behind when he gets his throat slit.
  • Hollywood Tactics: A scythed chariot would not stand a chance in hell against well-formed heavy infantry, let alone legionaries. Marcus letting his troops turn around and run is the worst thing he could have done. Doubly so, seeing as the Romans had developed an extremely effective method of repelling cavalry.
    • Possibly justified because the roman sortie didn't bring along their pila for some reason, so they wouldn't have been able to use this method.
    • Truth in Television: Chariots were intended to scare foot soldiers into running. Romans were also unfamiliar with them as they had fallen out of use pretty much everywhere else in the known world.
    • Also, the use of the tortoise formation (meant for withstanding ranged attacks) to charge a line of infantry.
  • Honor Before Reason: Pretty much everyone.
    • Marcus undertakes the very dangerous hunt for the eponymous Eagle in hostile territory assisted only by a slave who has a fairly strong incentive to murder him and take off, all in the name of his family's honor.
    • Esca, the slave in question, has no particular incentive not to simply kill Marcus and leave; the only reason he doesn't, despite ample opportunities to do so, is because he gave his word.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted with both the Rogue Warrior's and the Seal Prince's son getting their lives taken on screen.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Marcus and Esca have this talk when the former is incapable of moving on.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Of the Romans that died during the Final Battle. Lutorius gets a special burial treatment.
  • Not So Different: The Roman and the Britons; both are quite capable of barbarism and nobility towards themselves and others, both have a thriving slave trade, both factions have some kind of evil aristocrat (Seal King and Placidius), and both 'worship' the Eagle as a symbol of their people and their military prowess. Marcus and the Seal Prince, his Shadow Archetype, have a more personal one: they both treat their peers politely, but have a disdain for slaves, they both set out to avenge the loss of the Eagle (just a hunk of metal) as well as the deaths of their fathers, and when both Kick the Dog, they display some humanity in spite of it (Marcus performing it like a mercy kill, the Prince laying his victim down with dignity.) This is symbolized by the fact that, the Prince, who spends most of the movie with war-paint, has it washed off in the end, at which point he kind of resembles Marcus. Also, the music playing when the Druid beheads one of the patrol is the same as when Esca is forced to fight in the arena. The song is called 'Barbarians'.
  • The Queen's Latin: Not insignificantly averted.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Lutorius, who abandoned Marcus' father on the battle field eventually dies defending Marcus during the final confrontation with the Seal warriors. He gets a deserved Meaningful Funeral.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker
  • Shoot the Dog: Or "kill the boy." Notable in that the primary protagonist and the primary antagonist both do this.
    • The chief difference is this, though: When Marcus goes to slit the Rogue Warrior boy's throat, even he, after lecturing Esca, hesitates before eventually going through with it. There was also the risk of the boy running off and coming back with reinforcements, so there was a sense of pragmatism. When the Seal Prince shoots his dog, he's not only doing it for really no reason at all, but he's slitting the throat of his own son!
  • Shown Their Work: Two examples are Marcus's religious beliefs (he's a follower of Mithras, which was an actual religious group in the Roman Empire) and the medal that he gets for his actions in the field (which was an actual medal given for deeds of valor in the field.)
  • Translation Convention: Romans speak in American accents, Britons speak in Scottish accents or in Gaelic.