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Film / The Eagle (2011)

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

Channing Tatum stars as a young Roman soldier named Marcus Flavius Aquila goes on a quest to find the eagle standard of his father. His father was a member of the Ninth Legion, which disappeared without a trace from northern Britain. The film 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).
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  • 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.
  • Category Traitor: Esca is clearly considered this by the Seal Prince when he helps Marcus escape with the Eagle. Later the Prince significantly kills his son for not waking him (at Esca's request) in front of them, saying it's the punishment for traitors.
  • 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.
  • Death of a Child: Both the Rogue Warrior's and the Seal Prince's son getting their lives taken on screen.
  • 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? The Seal Prince even dies the same way as Mohicans villain Magua in the 1936 film adaptation.
  • 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.
  • Human Sacrifice: The Seal People sacrificed the Roman officers they captured in battle.
  • I Owe You My Life: Because Marcus saved Esca, the latter feels duty-bound to serve him. This despite wanting to die.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Marcus and Esca have this talk when the former is incapable of moving on.
  • Lost Roman Legion: As noted above, based on the legend of the Ninth Legion, which disappeared from the historical record and has puzzled historians for centuries.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Of the Romans that died during the Final Battle. Lutorius gets a special burial treatment.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: When Marcus is made a slave he is made to gut fish and sees some pretty young women walk by. They giggle over the attractive slave and Marcus like the attention he gets. Suddenly the Seal Prince shows up and starts to beat up Marcus: one of the women was his sister.
  • 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'.
  • Offing the Offspring: The Seal Prince kills his son because the boy lets Esca and Marcus get away instead of waking him.
  • 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.
  • Sacred Hospitality: The native Britons don't - at first - make any serious effort to kill Marcus because Esca is their guest and has claimed Marcus as his property.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: The Seal Prince is able to hunt Marcus and Esca based on just a few things they left behind, like a strand of cloth on a branch.
  • 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 god worshiped in the late 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.)
    • One soldier complains about the helmets and is seen with an injury on his chin. There are many accounts of soldiers complaining about the laces from the helmets cutting into their chins.
    • Marcus's last name Aquila is the Latin word for 'eagle'.
  • Translation Convention: Romans speak in American accents, Britons speak in British accents or in Gaelic.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Both Marcus and the Seal Prince kill boys in the film. Marcus to stop him bringing other Rogue Warriors, the Seal Prince as the punishment for betrayal (the boy is his son in fact).


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