‘The Eagle’ Has Landed in Scotland

Historical dramas about 2nd Century Britain have been done to death, so unless a film has something spectacular to offer, swords and sandals should be left in the archives, undisturbed. Unfortunately, this isn’t a universal point of view and, despite the fact that there have been quiet a few conflicts since 140 AD, we now have yet another tedious tale of Romans, gladiators and peasants in hessian waistcoats.

Rome’s 5,000-strong Ninth Legion army march to Caledonia (today’s Scotland), under the command of Flavius Aquila, bearing the golden Eagle of the Ninth, their company emblem. All 5,000 men disappear without trace. Twenty years later, there are rumors that the Eagle is in the temple of a Caledonian tribe known as Seal, and Flavius’ son, Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) sets off to reclaim it and clear his father’s tarnished reputation. He takes with him his slave, Esca, (Jamie Bell), who he saved from death at the hands of a gladiator.

The two main characters, Marcus and Esca, are both brave, honorable men. In fact, they’re quite perfect and, as admirable as this is, perfect people are impossible to relate to because we’re not like that ourselves, and we don’t know people who are and, even if we did, we wouldn’t hang out with them because they would remind us what a mess we are. These two warriors are also aware of who they are, what they want, and are fearless in pursuit of their goal so they have nothing to learn and their journey is only a physical one which is tiresome to watch.

The other problem with having two nice guys as leads is that there is very little conflict. They do have a couple of little spats and end up in fisticuffs, but that’s as down and dirty as it gets. Even when they get to the Seal tribe there is relative harmony until they leave, and after that it’s more a game of hide and seek than a tense battle to survive. The Seal tribe, by the way, have Mr T haircuts and green faces, which is imaginative but not very Scottish, but this isn’t a problem as no-one outside of the UK is likely to know that Caledonia is Scotland. Not giving the audience this information is a serious omission on the part of the filmmakers and playing bagpipes as background music just doesn’t fix it.

Before anyone makes any more of these films, there are a couple of things they should consider. Firstly, it’s not helping European relations to harp on about the Italian occupation of Britain no matter how long ago it was and, secondly, the Romans should be talking in Latin with sub-titles, not in English. You never heard the Germans speaking a la francaise when they were in the driving seat; au contraire, but there again, they only hung out in France for a while; the Italians carried on with their rape and pillaging for quite a lot longer. I think about 400 years.

Adapted from the novel ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’ by Rosemary Sutcliff.


Canada – 11 February 2011

USA – 11 February 2011

Greece – 17 February 2011

Finland – 18 February 2011

Malaysia – 25 February 2011

Germany – 3 March 2011

Netherlands – 3 March 2011

Sweden – 11 March 2011

Egypt – 23 March 2011

Hungary – 24 March 2011

Norway – 25 March 2011

UK – 25 March 2011

Portugal – 30 March 2011

Lithuania – 1 April 2011

Spain – 8 April 2011